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Prepare yourself for cold, snow and ice before winter officially arrives

(Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

Happy Monday and welcome to another edition of the Beyond The Forecast weather newsletter!

We are back from a one-week hiatus due to the Thanksgiving holiday with some news for you: it’s Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Virginia! Good timing too, because meteorological winter begins Wednesday. The traditional (astronomical) first day of winter is on Dec. 21 this year.

We will be breaking down a few winter weather preparedness topics on 10 News in the coming days, so make sure you tune in! I’ll also go through some of the things you need to know in today’s newsletter.

(Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

First, what’s the difference between a watch and a warning? Well, a winter storm watch means dangerous snow, ice and/or wind could affect the area in a couple of days, but the threat is not imminent. You should be discussing your plan to get through the storm with loved ones.

When a winter storm *warning* is issued, that means the storm is about to begin or has begun already. This is the time when you need to act on your preparations.

Other types of alerts that could be issued this winter include winter weather and wind chill advisories, wind chill watches and ice storms, blizzard and wind chill warnings.

(Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

In case you missed our winter weather outlook, here’s how much snow we’re expecting this season. We will get *some* snow, but not as much as the average year.

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Here’s how you can prep for a winter storm at home. We see the power get knocked out more often by winter storms than any other weather events.

It’s a good idea to stay away from trees and power lines, have extra blankets around and have your phone fully charged. Extra batteries and flashlights are a good call, too.

(Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

Next up, we have tips on excessive cold. The all-time coldest temperature recorded in Virginia happened in our viewing area in January 1985, when Mountain Lake saw the mercury drop to -30°. Roanoke hit a low of -11° on that day.

Exposed pipes need to be insulated before the temperature drops. Remember, you should *not* warm your car up in an enclosed garage. Space heaters should be plugged into the wall and not any other power source. Finally, your pets need to be protected from the cold, just like you would protect any human.

(Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

With a warmer-than-normal winter expected, we probably will have to deal with freezing rain and/or sleet at some point. Do you know the difference?

Let me show you a visual representation of each first. Freezing rain “clings” and sleet “pings.”

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Power outages become a *big* concern during freezing rain events as the ice accumulates and weighs down everything it touches. It’s rain that freezes on contact.

On the other hand, sleet (or ice pellets) has a deeper freezing layer to fall through above us and bounce on contact with the ground. We don’t see the same power outage concerns with sleet, but this precipitation type can still make roads slick.

(Copyright 2021 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

Speaking of roads, we’ll wrap up the newsletter with winter driving tips. First of all, stay home if you can. If you have to go out, you should have a full tank of gas and all the basic necessities in the car.

Checking that your car is in good running conditions is *very* important. The tire tread and pressure should be checked, along with your battery, antifreeze and windshield wipers.

Here’s something a lot of people forget to do: clear *all* of the snow and ice off your windows and roof, not just enough to see. If it flies off while you’re driving, it can act as a projectile to other drivers.

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We will be sure to reiterate all of these tips when the first winter storm is headed our way.

Switching gears to your forecast, it’s definitely feeling like winter outside with cold breezes from the northwest. Luckily, this cool-down will be short-lived and we’ll be warming back up soon! Find out when the 60s return in today’s weather article.

You can always get specific forecast details for your zone, whether it’s the Roanoke Valley, Lynchburg area, the New River Valley or elsewhere around Southwest and Central Virginia, anytime at Know your zone!

In case you missed it, we’re posting great weather and science content on Here are a few links from the past two weeks to check out:

If you prefer your weather information delivered by social media, you can follow Your Local Weather Authority on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also keep up with me on social media. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, follow along!

-- Justin McKee

About the Author:

Justin McKee presents the weather forecast on 10 News Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 to 8 a.m. He also fills in for other meteorologists during the week.