Updated 4pm Thursday, 20 December
Expect a soaking rain Thursday evening, with about 1/3 to 2/3 of an inch as a general rule. Winds will begin to pick up after midnight… as the cold air races in first thing Friday morning… which works out well… since astronomical winter starts 6:12am (ET) Friday.
Friday will not be the end of the world, but it will certainly be the beginning of the coldest day so far this fall/winter season.
In Greater Lynchburg and Southside Virginia, there will be big variations in sky cover. Morning will bring sun, but clouds will fill back in as the winds increase further from the northwest. As those clouds fill in during the afternoon, we expect a couple of small snow showers or flurries passing through, but nothing that should last more than about 15-30 minutes, and no accumulation will result. We would put the chance of that snow shower at about 40% in any one particular spot.
Wind and cold will be the dominant issues on Friday. Afternoon temperatures will not be much past 40 degrees, and wind speeds will average 15-35mph. Gusts to 50mph are likely, and we expect a small scattering of power outages to develop as the winds hit their peak during the early afternoon. Windchills much of the day will be in the 20s.
Secure all outdoor articles (i.e. Christmas decorations) before these strong winds getting rolling in full force on Friday. And it’s probably a good idea to have the flashlight nearby in case power goes out.
Conditions will be similar in the Roanoke Valley, except the temperatures hold in the 30s, the winds probably gust to 60mph, and the chance of that snow shower is about 60%. But even in the Roanoke Valley, no accumulating snow is expected.
In the New River Valley and Western Highlands, winds will be stronger (25-45mph, gusts to 65mph), temperatures will be lower (never better than the lower 30s), and the chance of snow showers is up around 80%. In fact, we expect a coating to an inch of snow in the areas toward Interstate 77 and within about 10 miles of the West Virginia state line.
More significant accumulating snow will hold farther west… into Tazewell, Bland, Smyth, and Grayson Counties… and into the adjacent counties in West Virginia. Those are the spots which should get 1-3″ of snow, with the ski areas seeing in excess of 8″ of snow. Snow at the ski resorts should get started Friday morning, and not shut off completely until Saturday afternoon. Highest peaks in West Virginia may have 16″ before all is said and done.
Saturday and Sunday both look generally sunny with highs in the 40s. Winds Saturday will still be 15-25 mph, but will finally tone down for Sunday.
Some light rain is likely again on Monday, with a small chance it could start as a period of sleet. Not enough precipitation is expected to cause travel problems, and it should begin to clear toward daybreak on Christmas morning.
Christmas Day still looks dry, but with clouds and sun. Highs in the 40s.
Watch for another large-scale storm in the December 26-27 time frame. Right now, it looks like some type of rain/snow/ice hybrid, so it is way too early to nail down specifics.