UPDATE 1:15 PM: It appears the heaviest snow is likely to end in the Roanoke and New River valleys by 3 p.m., with some flurries or patchy freezing drizzle continuing into the evening. Snow amounts of 1/2 to 2 inches are being reported so far, so the 1-3 inch expectations appear to be well on track. END UPDATE
UPDATE 11:45 AM: It appears that a heavier patch of snow is moving through much of the New River Valley and will spread into the Roanoke Valley during the lunch hour. The snow rate will pick up such that any roads not already covered may become white fairly quickly. Accumulations totaling 1-3 inches with some heavier amounts are still expected. END UPDATE
UPDATE 10:15 AM: Snow is now rapidly overspreading the New River Valley, and appears likely to begin in the Roanoke area by 11 a.m., roughly an hour ahead of the moved-up times I listed below. Expect roads to deteriorate rapidly. Some sleet may occur at the outset of the snow in some locations. END UPDATE
UPDATE 8:30 AM: Moved up start times of snow by 1 hour. Snow by 11 a.m. in New River Valley and by noon in Roanoke Valley. That is “by” not “at” so possibly a little earlier. END UPDATE
Radar is picking up echoes, some heavy, in central/eastern Tennessee and Kentucky, even edging into far southwest Virginia, as of just before 7 a.m. That’s not what you’re seeing at left — the inset image is what the NAM forecast model “thinks” the radar will look like about 1 p.m. today. Everything appears to be on track for a quick burst of snow — 3 hours or so of moderate, even heavy for a brief spell — that will likely accumulate 1-3 inches widely (not necessarily every single point) across Southwest Virginia and perhaps more in some heavier bands. The showery looking echoes in Tennessee and Kentucky are expected to become more solid in coverage, but there may still be some “mesoscale banding” or regions of more intense snow that, in some cases, may align west/east and move over the same location for an hour or two. That’s what could boost some local snow totals above forecasts. The moisture will be hitting very dry Arctic air as it heads eastward, so you may see an hour or two of radar echoes over your head before you see snowflakes, especially at lower elevations.
Approximate start time is spreading over the region west of Interstate 77 by 10 a.m. (already has begun in far southwest corner of the state), as far east as the New River Valley (Blacksburg/Chrsitiansburg/Radford/Pulaski) by 11 a.m. and into the Roanoke Valley by noon (I say “by” not “at” because it’s more likely to be a bit earlier rather than much later.) With the consistently cold weather we’ve had the last several days, snow will accumulate on untreated roads very quickly, and so slick conditions will develop rapidly even with minor amounts of snow. As we’ve noted, it will be a fluffy snow that is unlikely to cause large-scale power outages, as the Jan. 17 heavy wet snow did.
From here, it’s a radar-watching and waiting game.