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Patchy light icing may develop in parts of Southwest Virginia on Wednesday night and Thursday, mostly in higher elevations, as a colder weather pattern begins to nose in as moisture flows northward.
For most locations in Southwest and Southside Virginia, temperatures will remain above freezing, and only a cold rain in the mid to upper 30s will occur. But some locations near the Interstate 64 corridor along and west of the Blue Ridge and higher ridgetops farther south along the Blue Ridge and rimming the New River Valley may drop just cold enough for freezing rain to develop.
North of I-64, several counties along and west of Interstate 81 were placed under a winter storm watch for Wednesday night and Thursday for the potential of more widespread and heavier icing, and even some mixed-in sleet and snow especially near the mountains along the West Virginia border.
(UPDATE, WEDNESDAY AM, 12/14/22: The winter storm watch has been upgraded to an ice storm warning north of I-64 and along and west of the Blue Ridge. A winter weather advisory for scattered ice has been added southward as far as Roanoke and Floyd counties.)
A distant but strong low-pressure system in Iowa and Minnesota will be the culprit for pulling a rich vein of moisture northward from the Gulf of Mexico ahead of an approaching cold front. Rain falling through some drier air layers near the surface, plus perhaps the slight tug of a secondary low-pressure system that may form south of us, will pull temperatures downward slightly over much of Virginia on Wednesday night and early Thursday, and that could be just enough for patchy icing in higher elevations and areas near I-64 along and west of the Blue Ridge.
There is always some potential for variation with borderline temperatures near the freezing mark. A slightly stronger wedge of colder air could result in a bit more ice farther south and into some lower elevations, mainly west of the Blue Ridge, while a slightly weaker one would make even the expected streaks of ice smaller and lighter.
Ice is expected to form primarily on trees and exposed objects where it occurs, but there could be patchy ice on bridges and shaded roadways, especially where temperatures manage to drop nearer to 30 instead of hovering right at 32.
For most of Southwest and Southside Virginia, this will be more of a substantial cold rain than anything icy, with 1-2 inches of rain possible over most of the region before it subsides during the day Thursday.
The cold front that will follow this bout of rain and patchy ice will usher in persistently cold temperatures — teens to 20s lows, 30s and 40s highs — most days through the weekend into next week.
Read the next Cardinal Weather column posting Wednesday evening, and emailed to weather newsletter subscribers, for a deeper look at the developing colder weather pattern.
Journalist Kevin Myatt has been writing about weather for 19 years. His weekly column is sponsored by Oakey’s, a family-run, locally-owned funeral home with locations throughout the Roanoke Valley.