Meteorological winter is over, now that the calendar is flipping to March. Winter 2012-13 will finish tied for Roanoke’s 8th warmest on record (dating to 1912) with an average temperature of 41.9. This despite February being a very near normal month at only 39.2 degrees (4/10 of a degree below normal), the coldest winter month we’ve had since January 2011. It was also Blacksburg’s 10th warmest winter at 36 degrees, dating to 1952.
Winterlike weather, however, is not over. Cold weather (30s/40s highs, 20s-low 30s lows — teens by Sunday morning west of Roanoke) with intermittent mountain snow showers will continue through the weekend. Significant accumulations are likely to be confined to 3,000+ elevations west of Interstate 77, near the Virginia-West Virginia line, and especially in West Virginia’s mountains. Some locations there may rather slowly pile up a foot or more through the weekend.
Of course, the meteorological obsession for the next several days is going to be the potential for a winter storm to develop/move through somewhere near our region in the middle part of next week (Tuesday-Wednesday). At left is the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center’s (soon to change its name to the Weather Prediction Center) best early guess at total precipitation in the 48 hours from Tuesday evening to Thursday evening — the dark blue is 0.50-0.75 liquid. If it were all snow, it would be about 5-8 inches. But, of course, this an early broadbrush based on the average of several computer models. Some forecast models take the storm to our south and out to sea, missing us entirely. A few have tried to bring it farther north, over us, bringing more of a rain/snow mix (and even in the scenario on the HPC map, some of it may be rain to start). But most solutions are somewhere in between these extremes — and a few have been extreme in a different way, with a strong low intensifying in Georgia and rolling up the East Coast, spreading foot-plus snow amounts in the Appalachians and Piedmont, including western Virginia. The important thing for now is not the specifics of any forecast model solution, but the weather pattern’s likelihood to produce a strong low pressure system moving through and/or developing in the Southeast U.S. with unseasonably cold air blocked southward into much of the eastern U.S. (Keep in mind, a rather potent low will be diving southeast into the central U.S. and then tracking across the South — our snow chances next week are not ALL about where a coastal low would intensify or track.) In other words, many pieces are on the table for a potentially significant winter storm somewhere in the southern or eastern U.S. Whether that means an inch, a foot or not a flake outside your particular window is well outside the resolution of data at this time. Stay tuned.