Welcome to winter: Tracking light wintry weather, Arctic chill ahead of Christmas

Light ice, rain and light snow are then followed by high winds and bitter cold

ROANOKE, Va. – We continue to track a pair of storm systems the second half of this week.

Download our app to keep up to date on the multiple moving parts to this weather pattern.

Below, we break down the timing, the totals and how this will impact a) travel and b) holiday weekend plans.


System #1 - Rain and A Wintry Mix

Early Thursday morning, we’ll track moisture over-running a shallow layer of cold air.

This will result in pockets of light freezing rain in areas along and to the west of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Snow and sleet will be possible north of I-64 early on.

What we're tracking early Thursday morning

A brief period of freezing rain will be possible as far east as Bedford, Smith Mountain Lake and Lynchburg.

Any ice accumulations will be around a glaze to a tenth of an inch prior to plain rain. Isolated higher totals will be possible in Highland County and in parts of Floyd County/Bent Mountain (again).

Ice accumulation expected Wednesday night into Thursday morning

From midday onward, the rain becomes heavier. That heavy rain drags above-freezing air down to the surface. Most (if not all) of the area will deal with periods of cool rain throughout the afternoon and evening Thursday before turning drier at night.

What we're tracking Thursday afternoon

System #2: The Difference Maker

Our second storm system brings rain at first early Friday morning.

A surge of cold air chases the moisture eastward, resulting in a brief period of blowing snow for parts of the New River Valley, Roanoke Valley and Highlands.

What we're tracking early Friday morning

Accumulations appear to be very light, but don’t get caught up in the numbers.

Projected snow accumulation Friday morning

Temperatures Friday go from 30s and 40s to 10s and 20s in the blink of an eye Friday morning. Any moisture (even if light) that’s on the roads will likely become slick. This is what we call a “flash freeze.”

Hourly temperature forecast for Friday, 12/23/2022 in the Roanoke Valley

Keep in mind that wind gusts at times will be around 30 to 50 mph Friday, resulting in scattered power outages. That, combined with brutally cold air, is a bad combination.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day: Jack Frost nippin’ at your nose

The combination of cold air and strong wind gusts leads to dangerously cold weather.

That’s especially heading late Friday into Christmas Eve morning when wind chills drop below zero for many. Some wind chills will drop below -10° in the mountains.

Estimated wind chills first thing Christmas Eve morning

The National Weather Service in Blacksburg has said that a Wind Chill Advisory will likely be needed.

By the afternoon, high temperatures only reach the 20s. We’ll still be windy at times.

For areas like Roanoke and Lynchburg, this could make for the coldest Christmas Eve on record.

Nearing record cold Christmas Eve afternoon

While the wind calms, Christmas Day remains frigid.

Lows will be in the single digits and teens, while highs will be in the 20s and 30s - the coldest Christmas Day since 2000 in the Roanoke Valley.


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.