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UPDATE 2PM 1/22/2023: Freezing rain was patchy and very light this morning in western Virginia, with apparently no reports of significant problems developing. Most locations had temperatures above freezing by mid-afternoon Sunday, though some higher elevations may collect ice on trees from patches of rain and drizzle moving through. Snow showers may occur along and west of the Blue Ridge on Monday morning as winds turn to the northwest and renew seasonably cold air, with another round of rain, possibly beginning as freezing rain in some spots, by Wednesday morning. END UPDATE
An absentee winter since Christmas begins trying to elbow its way back into Southwest and Southside Virginia on Sunday morning with a round of patchy sleet and freezing rain.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for Sunday for Patrick, Franklin, Bedford and Amherst counties and all points west. Moisture will be overrunning colder air at the surface, leading to a period of sleet and freezing rain before temperatures edge upward enough for mostly rain.
This is similar to what happened on Dec. 14, Dec. 22 and Jan. 8, and like those episodes, results will depend largely on elevation and local geography, Generally speaking, ice is more likely to develop, accrue more and hang around long the farther north and west you are within our region, and also in higher elevations, with areas near Interstate 64 most likely to see significant icing.
One difference this time from prior events is that cold, dry air appears to be deeper aloft, so there may be more bouncy sleet pellets to start, perhaps even collecting a thin crust in some areas. Sleet to start the rain is possible just about anywhere, even Southside and lower elevations areas that start out a few degrees above freezing.
After mostly light to moderate rain of a half-inch or less, a cold front will pull through by early Monday, leading to upslope snow showers in our region’s mountainous areas on Monday. Light accumulations will be possible in the highest elevations west of Interstate 77 and near the Virginia-West Virginia state line. Some snow showers may reach the New River Valley and Blue Ridge.
This same progression of events may repeat for Southwest and Southside Virginia on Wednesday and Thursday. Storm tracks to the west of our region, without strong enough high pressure to the east to press cold air more strongly southward, are keeping us on the razor edge of cold rain and ice rather than producing more widespread winter storms with larger accumulations. We’ll see if that changes somewhat with a generally colder weather pattern through at least Groundhog Day.
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. Follow his weather posts on Twitter @kevinmyattwx or on his Kevin Myatt’s Weather Wonders Facebook page. Also sign up for his Cardinal Weather newsletter delivered to your inbox each Wednesday evening.