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Double Whammy: Soaking rain Monday comes before wintry mess Wednesday

Snow and ice are becoming significant concerns by Wednesday through Thursday morning

Weather headlines for the winter storm coming Wednesday, 12/16/2020
Weather headlines for the winter storm coming Wednesday, 12/16/2020

ROANOKE, Va. – We’re tracking periods of heavy rain through at least the first half of the day Monday, with a few brief bursts of snow on the back edge of the system. A winter storm is likely by Wednesday with snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain all on the table. We’ll split this article up into two parts as a result.

[Winter Storm Watch issued for much of Southwest, Central Virginia ahead of Wednesday’s snow, freezing rain]

Monday

An area of low pressure is moving through the region, bringing with it some periods of heavy rain for the morning commute. Cold air a few thousand feet up is looming west of the area, meaning that most of what we see will be in the form of rain.

FutureTracker - Monday at 10 a.m.

1 to 2″ of rain appears likely, with localized flooding not out of the question. The colder air finally begins to play catch-up, with accumulating snow in parts of Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Highland and western Nelson Counties. We could also see some light accumulation in parts of Grayson, Wythe and Bland Counties.

The three components to Monday's storm system

A brief burst of snow will be possible west of the Parkway, but the ground is too warm and wet for any accumulation. The wind turns gusty at times throughout the afternoon and evening.

WEDNESDAY

Wednesday is the bigger deal of the two systems. The biggest challenge with this particular storm is going to be what kind of precipitation we see. Temperatures above us will create a sharp cutoff in high snow totals and lower snow totals Wednesday. If low pressure tracks farther south, cold air wins and we see more snow. If it tracks farther north, then we get a mixed bag of every type of precipitation.

How different types of precipitation form

Given recent forecast data, snow and freezing rain begin as soon as sunrise Wednesday. The worst of the weather will happen after that and last off and on through at least midnight.

FutureTracker - midday Wednesday

The farther north you go, the more snow you get because that’s where the coldest air hangs on longest.

Totals of 6″ or more are fair game especially near and north of I-64. Then, you start to see the sharp cutoff in snow totals going farther south and east, where more mixed precipitation is likely. This forecast may change, depending on the exact track of our storm system.

Snow accumulation forecast for Wednesday, 12/16/2020 as of Monday, 12/14/2020

As a layer of warm air above us moves from south to north, we see the snow change over to freezing rain in areas near and south of US 460. This will make things very messy through Thursday morning.

Ice accumulation forecast for Wednesday, 12/16/2020

Even though many schools are going virtual, you may need to alter your schedule if you can work from home. The roads are going to be too messy throughout the day Wednesday and into the first half of the day Thursday. Power outages are possible, but widespread outages appear unlikely at the moment.

Storm threats for Wednesday, 12/16/2020

This is likely going to be the most impactful winter storm we’ve seen since the December 9, 2018 snowstorm. Make sure you have many ways to get alerts by downloading Your Local Weather Authority app.


About the Author:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.