UPDATE 8:40 PM: Some sleet and snow, caused by evaporational cooling as precipitation falls into cold, dry air, is being reported on front end of the advancing rain shield this evening. Some minor accumulations are possible before higher layers of the atmosphere warm enough for all precipitation to change to rain. END UPDATE
The historic winter storm that set snowfall records in many locations as it dumped widespread 1 to 3-foot amounts on New England (and locally even more, especially in Connecticut, where astonishing 4- to-6-inch per hour snowfall rates occurred Friday evening) is pulling away on this Saturday evening, some snow lingering in eastern Maine and near Cape Cod. There is actually another substantial winter storm cruising into the Northern Plains, with blizzard warnings from northeast Colorado across Nebraska into the Dakotas. Storms like these are why I remind folks that even though average temperatures have been similarly mild to last year locally, this active winter and last year’s relatively calm winter are far different when looking at the national weather pattern.
Saturday has been a stunningly gorgeous day with blue skies and temperatures topping 50 in some parts of Southwest Virginia. Sunday will be similar in temperature but see increasing clouds, leading to a period of significant rain Sunday night and Monday. The Hydrometeorological Prediction Center is highlighting widespread amounts topping half an inch in our region. Rainfall will be enhanced along the Blue Ridge with some southeasterly wind flow enhancing upslope lift. Other than maybe a few pockets of freezing rain in some valley areas north of I-64 at the start, this should easily be an unfrozen rain situation, with weak or non-existent wedging and southerly to southeasterly wind flow scouring out any residual cold air near the surface. Monday’s highs may even shoot into the 60s once the rain ends – and even behind the cold front the system drags through, highs will likely be above normal in the 50s on Tuesday.
And that takes us to a storm system approaching Tuesday night and Wednesday. Models are varying on its exact track, but the consensus is for a track that is generally conducive for snow potential in our region, moving south of us across Georgia and the Carolinas (HPC Wednesday morning projection at left). The major question is whether there will be enough cold air to tap for anything beyond cold rain, as the air behind late Monday’s “cold” front isn’t all that cold. This has been a winter of repeated marginal cold air setups that have more often than not yielded some level of substantial wintry precipitation over at least part of Southwest Virginia — Dec. 26, Jan. 17 and this past Thursday night/Friday morning come to mind. So it’s not easy to dismiss a situation like this. The storm tracking much farther north than projected (too warm) or much farther south (too dry) would render the question moot. Just mark this as another system of interest for some snow potential as we move into midweek. There may be another toward next weekend, as well, but forecast guidance is, as should be expected so far out, even more widely divergent on evolution and track of any possible storm system.