Heads up! Next winter storm to bring mix of snow, ice Sunday

Snow, ice to cause travel issues and possible power outages Sunday

Snow Accumulation

ROANOKE, Va. – With cold air already around and another storm system moving in from the west, Your Local Weather Authority will be tracking snow and a wintry mix at times Sunday.

4:00 p.m. Update

As we continue to learn more about this system, we continue to make little changes to the forecast. We have updated our snowfall totals map to reflect our latest thinking which is that areas such as Roanoke and Lynchburg could receive higher totals. Highest snowfall totals will be north of the 460 corridor and lower totals the farther south you travel.

Unfortunately we also have to keep an eye on our ice potential. The potential for freezing rain and sleet will be highest in the New River Valley and Southside, but cannot be ruled out elsewhere.

Ice Accumulation

This is going to be the biggest winter storm system that we’ve dealt with this season. This has prompted the National Weather Service to issue a Winter Storm Watch for the entire area from 10 p.m. on Saturday until 10 p.m. on Sunday.

Winter Storm Watch

With that in mind, here are our thoughts on the threats to come. Of course we are expecting quite a bit of snow, especially north of 460. This and our ice threat will quickly lead to hazardous road conditions. Sunday is not a day that you want to be out-and-about. Refreezing will likely occur overnight Sunday into Monday. Ice may not only lead to difficult travel, but it could also cause downed trees and power lines.

Sunday Threats

We do know a lot about this system, but there is also a lot to learn. We are closing monitoring the situation so be sure to stay up-to-date on the latest with Your Local Weather Authority.

Collecting the Data

1:39 p.m. Update

Sunday is going to be messy on the roads, and some scattered outages will be possible.

The map above could certainly change in the coming days because a difference of one degree 3,000 feet above us separates several inches of snow from more of a mix.

Despite that, as a general rule with this storm, we expect more snow farther north and less snow/more mix farther south.

Winter storm likely Sunday, 1/31/2021

When looking at timing, this starts before sunrise Sunday and lingers into the early-to-mid afternoon before taking a break. Wrap-around moisture produces a rain/snow mix Sunday night and Monday, with light accumulations favoring areas west of the Parkway.

Forecasted ice accumulation for Sunday, Jan. 31, as of Friday. (WSLS 10)

12:30 p.m. Update

LIVE WEATHER: A look at our snow and ice forecast for Sunday

Posted by WSLS 10 / WSLS.com on Friday, January 29, 2021

Types and Possible Totals

Contrary to this last system, this next storm has a few different layers to it. Most of the day will be spent at or below freezing at the surface. However, there’s a layer of “warmer” air above the surface that will likely come in from the north.

Precipitation types based on air temperature

This means that a mix of sleet and freezing rain will become possible as we head throughout the day Sunday. That mix is most likely farther south, with more snow expected farther north. This “warm nose” creeps up from the south on the east side of our storm.

Temperature above the surface by around midday Sunday

This makes forecasting snow totals very difficult Sunday. At the moment, it looks as though 1″ of snow is likely for most of the area except for Southside and possibly areas west of I-77.

Odds of 1" of snow Sunday, 1/31/2021, as of Friday, 1/29/2021

The odds of 3″ of snow go down the farther south you go, but they stay elevated the farther north you go Sunday.

Odds of 3" of snow Sunday, 1/31/2021, as of Friday, 1/29/2021

Remember, however, that where odds of snow go down is where odds of more ice go up. So, don’t let your guard down when you see that your area could get less snow.


Regardless of snow and ice amounts, the roads are going to get messy at times Sunday. Plan to stay in if you can. Based on the potential ice accumulation, power outages will become a possibility. Blowing snow isn’t as big a concern as it was with Wednesday night’s storm. As for strong wind, that’s mostly delayed until Tuesday once our system is farther east and stronger.

Storm threats from Sunday into Monday


You may have to work virtually Monday as well. That’s due to leftover impacts and the fact that we’ll see a mix of rain and snow on Monday.

As our system draws closer, naturally precipitation will move through the area around or shortly after sunrise Sunday. As we head into the afternoon, energy is transferred to the coast. This could create a bit of a dry slot for us, which would cut down on totals and provide the opportunity to clean up a bit. Let’s hope this dry slot comes to fruition!

Precipitation timeline for Sunday, 1/31/2021

Later at night and into Sunday, our system is offshore. However, there’s enough moisture and energy to produce some leftover snow into Monday (especially along and west of the Parkway).

There are so many moving parts to this system, so please keep checking back for updates. Download our app for more information when we’re not on air this weekend.

More Immediate Forecast

As for Friday, we’re starting off very cold. Any little breeze makes a big difference out there, with air temperatures in the teens and 20s. We’ll keep it breezy at times Friday, but the wind won’t be quite as strong as it was Thursday.

Wind speed and wind gust forecast for Friday, 1/29/2021

With high pressure in firm control of our weather, expect more sun. High temperatures, however, will only make it into the 30s and 40s.

High temperature forecast for Friday, 1/29/2021

Expect clouds to gradually increase Saturday ahead of our winter storm.

About the Authors:

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.