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Significant winter storm to bring treacherous travel, power outages Thursday

Snow, sleet and freezing rain are all on the table starting early Thursday morning

FutureTracker - 9 a.m. Thursday

ROANOKE, Va.Watch Jeff’s 9:40 p.m. live weather update:

The final float in our parade of winter storms moves through Thursday, starting early in the morning.

Timing

With enough cold air just above the surface, this may start as a mix of snow and sleet shortly after 2 or 3 a.m. That likely won’t be the case, however, the farther south and west you go.

FutureTracker - 5 a.m. Thursday

Warmer air a few thousand feet above will move in from the southwest and make freezing rain the dominant precipitation type through at least midday Thursday.

FutureTracker - 9 a.m. Thursday

Some forecast data indicates a dry slot for a few hours during the afternoon before filling back in with rain and freezing rain later on.

FutureTracker - late Thursday afternoon into Thursday evening

Some of this may linger into early Friday morning in areas along and east of US 29.

Impacts

With temperatures being lower than Saturday, it won’t take long for anything to stick to the ground and make the roads treacherous. If you can, plan to be off the roads and at home Thursday into Friday morning.

Wintry impacts for Thursday and Friday

Given the amount of ice that’s forecast (and the amount of ice we had over the weekend), we’re expecting numerous reports of downed limbs/trees and power outages. It may take some time to get power back, as it will be pretty windy at times Friday once the storm is gone.

In order to avoid the power outage threat, you want a deeper pocket of colder air within the lowest 3,000 feet of the atmosphere. This would mean more sleet than freezing rain.

Assuming that freezing rain is the dominant precipitation type most of the day Thursday, here’s how to prepare for outages.

- Stock up on food that you know won’t go bad.

- Have some extra blankets, sweatshirts, jackets, etc. around.

- Make sure you’ve got all medications you need, especially if you’re running low.

- Have flashlights, batteries and a charged phone.

Tips for Thursday's ice/winter storm

Totals

Regarding forecast totals, we’re going to start with ice.

This unfortunately has the potential to be as bad as, or possibly worse than, the storm we just went through this past weekend. Much of the area will see 0.25″ of ice or more, assuming that sleet doesn’t stick around too long. Higher totals will be possible in areas hit hardest by Saturday’s storm, delaying recovery from both damage and power outages.

Ice accumulation forecast for Thursday, 2/18/2021

As for snow and sleet, we’ve combined the two on the map below. Your highest chance of seeing accumulation is near and north of I-64 with light accumulations possible near and north of US 460.

Snow/sleet totals for late Wednesday night and Thursday morning

Keep in mind this would come before any freezing rain. While this may not lead to power outages, it will certainly make for icy and messy travel.


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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.