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Significant ice event possible this weekend

By Brent Watts, bwatts@wdbj7.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 06:43:27 PM EST
Updated On: Dec 04 2013 03:05:12 PM EST
Freezing rain possible Saturday night - Sunday

Rain will move over-top cold air causing freezing rain in Southwest Virginia and all along the Interstate 81 corridor.

It appears conditions are coming together to confidently say we're going to get icy over the weekend. The main risk would be Saturday night through late-morning Sunday.

The Icy Setup

The cold front bringing rain to the region Friday will stall over the Carolinas on Saturday. At the same time, an arctic high pressure system will set-up across the northeast, driving cold air down the spine of the Appalachian mountains.

By the second half of the weekend, a low develops along the stalled front in the Carolinas, pushing moisture over top freezing surface temperatures. The end result will be hours of freezing rain for our region.

Wintry Timeline

SATURDAY: We don't anticipate any problems during the daylight hours. Highs will take place at midnight with temperatures dropping during the day. Any rain should be confined to North Carolina and/or areas along the VA/NC border.

SATURDAY NIGHT: Colder air continues to surge in along the mountains with temperatures dropping to the upper 20s/low 30s overnight. Rain will nudge northward Sunday night and fall into the freezing temperatures. Freezing rain (ICE) will be the end result, and will continue for most areas through mid-morning Sunday.

SUNDAY: Temperatures will slowly rise for many areas by late Sunday morning  relieving the icing concern. **The exception will be areas north of the Roanoke Valley, where surface temperatures may stay at freezing for much of Sunday.

Early Ice Estimates

 The big questions are, just how strong will that high be, and how thick with the cold air be across our region.

  • Deep layer of cold air would mean a period of sleet and snow before changing to freezing rain.
  • Thin layer of cold air at the surface would suggest rain falls and freezes at the surface, which is more of a significant ICE event

Rainfall amounts are forecast to be in the .25" to 50" range. While not all of that will freeze, you can see the concern for a significant icing.

It's still early, but at this point count on ice accumulating on all elevated surfaces, from power lines to trees and car windshields. Bridges and overpasses are likely to get slick, as well as untreated roads.

We've seen in the past, treated roads often hold off the icing to a certain extent, but there's a possibility that we may have icy roads Saturday night and early Sunday morning as temperatures fall below 32°

Winds will be light, generally 5mph or less, so that's in our favor for limiting, but not alleviating power outages.

Be careful what you hear on social media. We've heard everything from "Crippling to Historic."  While those sound a bit overstated, it does appear to be a prolonged freezing rain event that will impact much of Southwest Virginia Sunday.

We will continue to update this article in advance of our possible icing event over the weekend. So check back. 


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