UPDATE 9:30 AM, 1/6: The mixed precipitation — mostly rain/sleet mix — moved through a bit earlier than expected, mostly Saturday evening. Today and Monday will be seasonably cold with highs in the upper 30s to 40s and lows in the 20s to low 30s, with a few snow showers possible in the mountains near the Virginia-West Virginia border, maybe a few flakes blowing farther east. A milder period begins Tuesday, and peaks next weekend with highs in the 60s (possible low 70s), before cold likely returns in force sometime in the Jan. 15-20 range. END UPDATE
The colder weather pattern that set in Dec. 20 after a roasting start to December is going to relent this week without producing a significant winter storm in Southwest Virginia (though some people who were iced in on Bent Mountain and in Floyd County might dispute that). But there is one more hint of wintry precipitation that could dust the area come Sunday morning. A weak upper-air impulse — one of several similar features that have been passing through lately, often clouding the skies up — may be able to lift just enough moisture for some light precipitation across our region early Sunday. The GFS model at left for early Sunday morning shows the blue line — 0C or 32F at 850 millibars, about a mile up — draped right across our area again, which means we will be on the borderline for frozen/non-frozen precipitation, depending on surface temperatures. Some rain, freezing rain, sleet or snow will be possible — but it will be light, likely a tenth of an inch of liquid or less. Light freezing rain can be a menace where it is cold enough tocreate icy patches on roads — watch out for that Sunday morning if you’re traveling in our region, especially at higher elevations. A few spots, particularly higher elevations north and west of Roanoke, might even squeeze out an inch of snow if the moisture and cold air manage to maximize their limited potential. This system will zip through quickly, and, after a brief reinforcing cold front that might bring upslope snow showers to the typical places west of Roanoke on Sunday night, the much talked-about milder pattern will push highs into the 50s, maybe some 60s, much of the week as the predominant winds turn to the southwest.
Some upper-level energy moving out of the Southwest will help organize a storm system in the lower Mississippi River Valley in the middle to latter part of the coming week that might be able to bring appreciable rain to our region as it tracks well to our northwest … though early returns suggest most of that will stay to our west. While it will drag a cold front through that may briefly pull temperatures back down, it appears that any truly Arctic shot of air will have to wait until mid-month or later.