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Weekend winter storm marks colder, wetter weather pattern for Charlottesville

The first substantial winter storm threat is heading to Virginia this weekend, but the specific details are just not there yet. And moreover, this will be the first in a series of three large storms that cross Virginia over the next 10 days.

After some early morning clouds Thursday, fair weather should continue through Friday evening with temperatures within a few degrees of normal.

The first storm moves into Southwest Virginia early Saturday morning, spreading precipitation statewide and ending within a few hours of dusk Saturday evening.

The issue is the precipitation type.

Temperatures at daybreak Saturday will be in the 20s, but through the morning, wind will begin to turn more from the south and temperatures will approach and exceed freezing. But it will not be a uniform warm up.

Despite the cold start to Saturday morning, the winds aloft will be increasing from the southwest, sending temperatures a few thousand feet overhead several degrees above freezing. With lighter winds near the ground and precipitation falling toward a colder ground, ice appears to be a bigger threat than snow in Charlottesville and the nearby Shenandoah Valley. Better chances for accumulating snow of more than 3 inches will be farther northwest toward Winchester.

It is still too early to consider it a legitimate ice storm with numerous downed trees and power lines, but the potential is there for a tenth of an inch of ice to cling to surfaces. Likewise, there may be sleet — also known as ice pellets — added to the precipitation before the entire storm finishes late in the afternoon and temperatures creep above freezing.

But a big snowstorm from Charlottesville to Culpeper is becoming less and less likely.

Once that storm goes by, Sunday and Monday look quiet, but the second storm moves across the state on Tuesday. This one looks warmer, meaning the chances for snow are lower than the first storm. Plus, more moisture appears to be involved with this one as there is more of an influence from the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. This Tuesday storm has the potential for 1 to 3 inches of rain in Virginia, keeping its snow much further north into Pennsylvania and upstate New York.

After another break for a day or two, the third system follows for the end of the week and into the weekend, around Jan. 12-14. This far in advance, there are not many details other than a large storm system is expected during that window of time. Early signs suggest rain, but it is far too early to make any guarantees about precise timing or precipitation type. Nonetheless, it is something to keep tucked away in the back of your mind if you have plans for that weekend.

As a positive, this series of storms will do wonders for the severe drought that continues in the Shenandoah Valley and the moderate drought that continues across Southwest Virginia. But for those still itching for a big snow, the wait will probably continue into the second half of the month.


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