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UPDATE 1/16/2023: Snow did indeed occur intermittently Friday and early Saturday (January 13-14) over Southwest Virginia west of Interstate 77, with as much as 4.7 inches reported at Burke’s Garden in Tazewell County, though most amounts were much lighter as this linked map shows. More sporadic snow showers occurred eastward into parts of the New River Valley and along the Blue Ridge south of Roanoke. Somewhat unexpectedly, light snow also developed late Friday night and early Saturday over some Piedmont and Southside areas, but with temperatures above freezing, no accumulation occurred. A mild week with some rain showers is in store this week. See the next Cardinal Weather column/newsletter on Wednesday evening for what may happen beyond this week. END UPDATE
Winter has a pulse.
The bar is low, but our region’s most widespread snowfall thus far in the 2022-23 winter season is expected Friday into early Saturday, though two-thirds or more of the Cardinal News coverage area probably won’t see a flake.
Accumulating snow is expected to be almost entirely contained to the region of Southwest Virginia west of Interstate 77, plus possibly some higher elevations farther north along the western fringe of the state.
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A few snow showers may flutter in the breeze as far east as the New River Valley and Blue Ridge, but there will only be brief flurries at best in the Roanoke Valley and quite likely not a flake, with a good amount of sunshine, east toward Lynchburg, Danville and the rest of the Piedmont and Southside localities.
The driver for this spray of snow will be cold, northwest flow over the mountains behind a departing low-pressure system that brought us pouring rain and some thunder on Thursday night. This process for snow, called upslope, is common in our region’s mountainous areas, frequent in many winters, as northwest winds sweep moisture off the Great Lakes and lift it over the Appalachians, cooling and condensing into bands of snow parallel to the wind flow.
So far this winter, even when it has been cold, including the historic deep freeze near Christmas, winds have been more from the due west than the northwest, so Great Lakes moisture has been limited and upslope snow showers meager.
Most locations west of Interstate 77 are expected to see 1 to 3 inches, with a winter weather advisory covering most of that area. (See National Weather Service websites for offices in Blacksburg; Morristown, Tennessee; and Charleston, West Virginia, linked here, for more detailed information on winter weather advisories issued.)
A few spots in higher elevations may get around 4 inches, especially 2,500-foot-plus elevations in parts of Tazewell, Buchanan, Wise, Dickenson, Russell and Smyth counties, and perhaps the mile-high areas of Grayson County like Whitetop and Mount Rogers.
Some lower elevations, the Virginia-Tennessee border areas west of Bristol and the eastern fringe of this far Southwest zone nearest I-77 may see less than an inch. Upslope snow tends to be streaky both because of varying elevation and the tendency for heavier snow to align in narrow bands.
Spotty accumulations near an inch are possible along the higher ridges near the West Virginia border north through Bland, Giles, Craig, Alleghany, Bath and Highland counties.
Any accumulations eastward through the New River Valley or toward Floyd County and the Blue Ridge higher elevations north and south of Roanoke would be sporadic and light. The wind trajectory is expected to take on more of a north-northwest angle, rather than the northwest angle more squarely perpendicular to the mountain ridges that can sometimes drive upslope snow bands past the Blue Ridge.
After a cold weekend with some teens and 20s lows, mild temperatures in the 50s and 60s will again return next week with more bouts of rain. There are some signals pointing to a colder pattern by the last 10 days of the month, but that remains a little beyond the horizon of clear forecast visibility.
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.