Sunday’s winter storm will pack a major punch

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A major winter storm is headed our way and it is going to bring a lot of different weather to Central Virginia. This will be a powerful winter storm bringing snow and sleet for many, and rain for others. There is even going to be a chance for some areas to see a little bit of freezing rain that could coat area roadways and power lines. 

The other thing we’ll be dealing with is some very strong winds in our coastal communities which could cause coastal flooding. Those winds might slide all the way back into the Richmond area. We’re talking sustained winds of possibly 20 to 35 miles per hour and higher gusts.

Let’s break everything down step-by-step.  

First let’s start with the timing of the storm and amounts and changeover times: 

It looks like the first snowflakes will reach the Virginia-North Carolina line between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Sunday and get close to the Richmond area by 11 a.m., steadily pushing north after that.

Now while some areas from Emporia to Wakefield will see some snow at the onset, the changeover to rain will happen very quickly, so you might get a coating on the ground if you’re lucky. I would say after 10 a.m. your entire storm is rain and wind and we could easily see 1 ½” to 2” of rain.

Any areas south and east of Wakefield including Norfolk to Virginia Beach will see all rain and some of you could see as much as 2″.

The area between South Hill and Williamsburg will have snow to begin with, and might see as much as an inch in a few spots. This also includes Charles City and New Kent Counties, the Middle Peninsula and eastern sections of the Northern Neck. The current thinking is this area will change over to rain between 11 a.m. and noon, and any accumulating snow will be washed away. There might be a brief period of sleet in this area — especially across across the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck — but accumulations of ice from the sleet will be minimal. You could see roughly 1” of rain here after the snow and sleet ends.

The next area of concern stretches from Lunenburg, Nottoway and Eastern Prince Edward to counties east of US Hwy 15. This area might see roughly 1″ to 2″ of snow but there might be a prolonged period, an hour or two, of freezing rain before a change over to rain. There is potential for this area to see as much as a 1/10” to ¼” of ice from freezing rain, covering decks, sidewalks, roadways and even power lines. Rain should quickly move into these areas between noon and 1 PM, which will help melt the freezing rain and snow off the roads, power lines and sidewalks. However, there is a risk of power outages in this area due to the combination of freezing rain and potentially strong winds. We could see possibly up to 1″ of rain in these areas after the snow and freezing rain comes to an end. That will help to wash the accumulated snow and ice away.

For Amelia, Chesterfield, Richmond, Henrico, Hanover, King William, King and Queen and Caroline County as well as areas in Powhatan and Goochland counties east of US Hwy 522; 1 to 4″ of snow could fall. We then look for a period of sleet from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. with a change to all rain between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. which will wash away most of the snow in the area.

Powhatan and Goochland west of US Hwy 522, Buckingham, Louisa, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Orange, Culpepper and Northwestern Prince Edward County might see between 4 to 7″ of snow until between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. when they will have a mixture of rain, snow and sleet until 11 p.m. when the storm comes to an end. Due to the weight of the snow combined with some strong winds we expect power outages to be a significant possibility in this area.

Throughout Sunday evening and Sunday night temperatures will warm into the middle and upper 30s across most of Central Virginia with lower to middle 40s being found along the coast down into the tidewater. Therefore ice on our roadways will not be a concern for Monday morning’s commute for those of you who have to work.

Of course, the exception will be those areas to the west of US Hwy 522 and areas to the west and northwest, where we expect heavier amounts of snow and sleet to fall. Roadways there will be extremely messy Monday morning.

Tuesday morning’s commute in Western Virginia is cause for concern, as temperatures will drop into the 20s Monday night, meaning any water that didn’t melt Monday will be frozen over by Tuesday morning.

As I mentioned earlier, wind is going to be an issue with this storm. The main area of concern is going to be communities along the Chesapeake Bay, where during the second half of the day as the storm begins to move closer to Virginia, very strong winds will push the Chesapeake Bay waters up the rivers and up through the entire length of the Chesapeake Bay. This will create the possibility for big time coastal flooding for the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck.

Right now, we expect the winds along and east of I-95, especially closer to the Chesapeake Bay, to gust to over 35 miles per power, but they will stay in the 20 to 30 range for the majority of the storm. These winds will further contribute to the tidal flooding issues previously mentioned.

For areas along and west of I-95, afternoon and evening winds will be from 15 to 25 miles per hour with some higher gusts. The concern here is that anything weighed down with heavy wet snow or mixture of snow and sleet such as branches and trees could snap and potentially disrupt power lines. 

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