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More ice than snow in the Saturday storm

All remains on track for a large storm system to impact Virginia this Saturday, and like so many winter storms, the impacts will vary widely by location. Precipitation spreads from southwest to northeast across the state during Saturday morning, and while there will be some snow, most places get ice or cold rain.

Ice is increasingly going to be a problem around Charlottesville and westward across Skyline Drive into the Shenandoah Valley.

Precipitation will fall as sleet or freezing rain for several hours on Saturday morning, beginning to accrete on elevated surfaces like trees and power lines as the morning wears on. About a quarter-inch of glaze is possible by early afternoon before the temperature nudges above freezing and the precipitation ends as a few hours of rain before nightfall.

With that in mind, the National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for the ice threat for Charlottesville and Albemarle County, extending west into the Shenandoah Valley, and along Route 29.

Expect slower, but not impossible, travel and a scattering of power outages on Saturday, but the roads will not turn into skating rinks. Ground temperatures will not be dramatically below freezing and the heaviest precipitation will come during the middle of the day. Even though it is cloudy, there is still enough energy getting through the clouds to slow down ice formation on surfaces. If the storm came in the middle of the night, ice would form on surfaces much more easily.

Treated primary roads will probably remain wet, but icing will become more significant along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.

Accumulating snow is going to hold farther west, in the higher terrain of Virginia’s counties that share a border with West Virginia. The highest terrain from Rockingham to Frederick Counties will average 2-4 inches, with a few locations tacking on another inch or so.

Even after the precipitation finishes, the sky will be slow to clear, leaving clouds in place most of the night. The clouds will help keep the temperature from falling much below freezing Saturday night, with daybreak temperatures on Sunday in the lower 30s. A few icy spots may develop by dawn on Sunday, but a high-impact overnight freezing of surfaces is not expected.

After a couple of quieter days, a larger storm looms for Tuesday next week. This one looks warmer and will produce much more precipitation statewide, and early data suggests 1-3 inches of rain will come with the system.

Snow lovers need not give up. The weather pattern turns a bit colder for the second half of January, so there is still some room for snow in the weeks ahead.


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