Super Bowl Sunday brought snow and ice to the Roanoke and New River valleys on Feb. 4, 2018, also. That could bode well for Philadelphia Eagles fans if this Sunday turns into something similar -- the Eagles beat the New England Patriots that year, and face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Photo by Kevin Myatt.
Super Bowl Sunday brought snow and ice to the Roanoke and New River valleys on Feb. 4, 2018, also. That could bode well for Philadelphia Eagles fans if this Sunday turns into something similar -- the Eagles beat the New England Patriots that year, and face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Photo by Kevin Myatt.

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This winter has no business playing on Super Bowl Sunday.

It has been a winter plagued by poor execution, almost shut out for snowfall, and is vying to be among the weakest on record in Southwest and Southside Virginia. (It will not even be a champion warmest winter or, quite, a champion widespread snowless winter.)

But here it is, 10 days after the groundhog gave it permission to continue, trying to upstage the most widely viewed sports event of the year with a slushy, murky storm system that may or may not break through with at least a little snowfall in many places in our region that have seen very little or none.

Your Super Bowl party may be BYOB (bring your own beverage), but this storm system is BYOCA (bring your own cold air). There is no deep cold air waiting for it like there often would be on an early February weekend, so it has to bring its own. (Had it come last weekend, it would have been plenty to work with – one of many missed opportunities for this particular winter.)

The closed upper-level low passing south and east of our region will tote its pigskin of cold air aloft that will enable some snow to happen on Sunday, first in the highest elevations, generally above 3,000 feet, and then west to east in some lower elevations. But just how far east and just how low in elevation does it go? Oddsmakers are pretty skeptical it can get much beyond the Blue Ridge or down into the floor of the Roanoke Valley.

Rather than get lost in meteorological jargon, let’s examine what is expected to happen, and what might happen, in our region through four quarters of atmospheric play on Sunday.

Percentage chances given by the National Weather Service for getting at least 0.1 inch of snow, as of Friday evening. Roanoke has a 62 percent chance of breaking its snowlessness in 2022-23, even if it’s just a thin layer of sleet and slush.

First quarter (Sunday morning mix):

The storm system will kick off late Saturday or pre-dawn Sunday with a band of precipitation lifting northward that may encounter just enough cold air to become a mixture of snow, sleet, rain and perhaps some freezing rain as it pushes northward, even east of the Blue Ridge. This might be just enough to collect a little slushy accumulation in some places – potentially breaking the shutout as the first accumulating “snow” of the season if there is a tenth of an inch at still-snowless places like Roanoke – though most spots will be a few degrees above the freezing mark as it falls. Most areas are expected to see the precipitation turn to cold rain, but wintry mix might hold on in higher elevations and in the New River Valley and westward.

You will know this winter storm could be vying for an upset if – aside from higher elevation or far western areas of our region – you get anything more than an inch of mostly snow out of this, or snow and sleet linger at your location into mid-morning. That would mean the atmosphere may be a little colder overall than expected. If you get nothing but rain at your location,  the 2022-23 winter is well on its way, at least at your location, to another expected lopsided defeat. (Probably how it goes down in most of Southside).

Percentage chances given by the National Weather Service for getting at least 1 inch of snow – better across the western part of our region than the east.

Second quarter (Midday-early Sunday afternoon lull):

Don’t expect much scoring in the second quarter. As the initial band lifts northward, precipitation likely lulls for the afternoon. It might even stop entirely. Patchy light precipitation – mostly rain, possibly wintry stuff at higher elevations or western parts of our region – may occur. If anything collected from the morning mix, a lot of it may melt during this lull when the temperature may ease upward a few degrees.

If the temperature stalls very near the freezing mark at your location, or you keep seeing bouncy sleet or some wet snowflakes at times, winter may be here to play for a change.

A winter storm watch was issued early Friday evening for Grayson County – the first locality in Virginia to be put under a winter storm watch this entire winter. Courtesy of National Weather Service.

Third quarter (Late Sunday afternoon/early evening snow … or rain):

If this winter storm is going to score a major upset, this is when it will do it, 3-8 p.m. or so Sunday afternoon and evening.

A cold bubble in the atmosphere associated with an upper-level low will move east or northeast across our region, and snow is expected to develop underneath the cold pool for the parts of our region you would most expect it – the New River Valley, along and west of Interstate 77 (except far southwest rim counties may be caught a little west of main moisture flow), and highest elevations along the Blue Ridge (Bent Mountain down to Fancy Gap, for instance). Many, maybe not all, locations in this zone will probably see 1 to 3 inches of snow, and some localized spots may get up to 6 inches. (Very high elevations above 4,000 feet in Grayson County are their own category – expect 6 to 12 inches there, with a winter storm watch already issued as of early Friday evening).

This is what it’s expected to do, so it only gets credit for a field goal if the storm pulls this off. If this snow doesn’t happen or is just barely accumulating a slushy coating here and there in these areas, aside from the very high elevations, winter is getting sacked once again by the mild overall pattern of this 2022-23 season. This is the “bust’ scenario – mostly rain and very little snow even in places expecting it like Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Pulaski, Wytheville, Abingdon, Bluefield, Tazewell, and everywhere in between.

But if the snow gets into some marginal areas Sunday evening, like the Roanoke Valley, the lower elevations just east of the Blue Ridge from Patrick County across Franklin County up to Bedford County, the I-81 corridor north of Roanoke toward the James River, maybe even Smith Mountain Lake, Martinsville or Lynchburg, that will mean this storm is mounting a real offensive drive, defying its naysayers. That would also probably mean that areas already expected to get snow are getting more of it than expected. This is the “boom” scenario that would mean a fairly widespread snowfall and some especially heavy snowfall in some locations.

This is not the forecast, but some forecast models present it as least an outside possibility, and upper-level-low/dynamic cooling setups like this do some unexpected things quite often. That could “boom” or “bust” – or each of those in different parts of our region. Expect some unexpected developments with this particular atmospheric setup.

Fourth quarter (Brief Southside/Piedmont snow?)

The game will probably be firmly decided by this point, but as the system pulls out Sunday evening, enough of the cold pool may overlap precipitation for a short period of some big-flake wet snow in parts of the Piedmont and Southside. This probably won’t amount to much if it occurs, but if winter has pulled the upset farther west, who knows.

* * *

There won’t be much of a postgame party even if winter somehow wins the day on this Super Bowl Sunday. Any leftover snow or sleet accumulation starts melting with morning sun on Monday, mostly gone by midday, and we’ll be back to springlike temperatures by late next week.

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.

Kevin Myatt

Kevin Myatt wrote the Weather Journal in The Roanoke Times for 19 years. He has led students on storm chases and written for “Capital Weather Gang.” Twitter: @KevinMyattWx. Email: