We have taken a flying leap from the refrigerator into the frying pan. Roanoke’s high of 87 degrees on Tuesday equalled the normal high at the hottest time of year, late July and early August, and missed an April 9 record by just 1 degree (88 in 1929). Blacskburg didn’t quite tip 80, reaching 79, 5 off a record. There’s a good chance Blacksburg tops 80 and some chance Roanoke scrapes 90 on Wednesday as the summerlike heat less than a week after widespread snowfall reaches its peak. April 10 records of 82 at Blacksburg (2001) and 88 at Roanoke (1922) could be challenged.
And that reminds me: Today’s Weather Journal column (linked here) looks at how snow to 80s in less than a week really isn’t that uncommon when it does happen to snow measurably in late March or early April.
This summerlike warmth is NOT going to hang on for all of April. The overall pattern is not one for prolonged warmth, with broad high pressure trapped over us, but rather one for up-and-down waves of warmth and cooling as the west-to-east or southwest-to-northeast angled jet streams brings low-pressure systems across the nation, dragging cold fronts. The next such system its working its way across the central U.S., where it is kicking up a wild package of heavy rain, snow and thunderstorms. On Monday night, there was confirmed tornado at the edge of a snow shield in Colorado, and on Tuesday, there were severe thunderstorm warnings for locations where snow or freezing rain was falling in Nebraska. As this cold front pushes into our warmth, there will be some risk of strong to locally severe thunderstorms late Thursday or early Friday — probably more like a squall line with gusty winds rather than intense supercells capable of violent tornadoes or extremely large hail. We’ll pinpoint more of the severe threat as more details become clearer. Rainfall estimates have been increased quite a bit — the Weather Prediction Center as of Tuesday evening showing widespread 1-plus inch amounts late Thursday into Friday — as there is some evidence on the models that the front may slow down to a crawl and/or develop a secondary low-pressure system to the south that could increase rain amounts, especially with upslope easterly or southeasterly flow into the mountains.
Once the front goes through, breezy winds will usher in more normal temperatures for the weekend, with highs backing into the 60s and lows into the 30s and 40s. Expect another warm rebound in temperatures early to mid next week before yet another front pushes in about a week after this one. It may have a bit colder kick to it, so don’t store away those coats just yet.