/UPDATE: Winter storm will dump its heaviest snow north and west of Richmond by Sunday, with more rain south and east – Richmond.com

UPDATE: Winter storm will dump its heaviest snow north and west of Richmond by Sunday, with more rain south and east – Richmond.com


Trucks on Chamberlayne Road in Hanover County pretreat the roadway Friday for possible snowfall this weekend.

Another Sunday, and another winter storm is set to spread a snowy, rainy mix throughout much of Virginia.

But the Richmond region could have two very different scenes playing out at the same time early Sunday morning.

For some: skies spewing snow, coating the grass, cars and decks. Roads potentially turning slushy, then slick.

For others: a chilly, soaking rain, with occasional flecks of snow standing out against the streetlights.

Then, imagine those scenes going back and forth a few times between midnight and noon on Sunday. And it might not even get below freezing during that time.

That’s the nature of the winter weather forecast for the Richmond area.

Though the arrival time is similar to last weekend’s winter storm, this system will be much faster to clear out of the region on Sunday.

Saturday’s warmer conditions will help to keep overnight accumulations in check, but the rate of snow could be heavy enough to pile up regardless.

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As of midday Saturday, winter storm warnings were posted for much of western and northern Virginia including the Charlottesville and Fredericksburg areas. For metro Richmond, the Tri-Cities and much of Southside Virginia, a winter weather advisory will go into effect Saturday evening.

The Virginia Department of Transportation planned to treat primary and secondary routes in the Richmond region with saltwater brine by Saturday afternoon. Plowing is set to begin with 2-inch accumulations.

Here’s a breakdown of the snow chance for the Richmond region.

Primarily rain and a wet snow. There’s a slight chance of some brief periods of sleet, but freezing rain is unlikely.

Generally, expect more rain and less snow the farther south and east you are from Richmond. To the north and west of Richmond, plan on more snow and less rain.

Start: likely around midnight in the Richmond metro area. Steady precipitation would probably begin no earlier than 9 p.m. and no later than 2 a.m.

Because the system is moving in from the southwest, precipitation will start in the evening across southwest and southern parts of Virginia. For northern and eastern areas, it’s more likely to begin in the early morning.

End: probably around noon for Richmond, but no sooner than 9 a.m. and no later than 4 p.m.

The system will clear out to the northeast, places like the Northern Neck or Eastern Shore will take until mid-to-late afternoon to turn dry.

Confidence: high on the overall system timing, but low for any changeover times. There could be multiple periods of snow and rain for any given spot in central Virginia.


Computer model simulation of a potential winter storm for Saturday night and Sunday. Central Virginia is set to see a mix of snow (in blue) and rain (in green).

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Updated Saturday afternoon

Most likely scenario: 1 to 3 inches, bracketed by a few hours of rain. (50% chance)

Realistic high-end scenario: 3 to 6 inches, with little rain. (20% chance)

Realistic low-end scenario: 1 inch or less of snow, with longer spells of rain. (20% chance)

Extreme high-end: 6-plus inches of snow. (5% chance)

Extreme low-end: all rain, no snow. (5% chance)


Expected snowfall across Virginia this weekend, as of Saturday afternoon. Amounts could be significantly higher or lower due to the uncertain mixing with rain.

For locales on the northwestern side of the metro area like Goochland County and Ashland, the most likely scenario is a heavier 4 or 5 inches.

And for the southeastern side, toward the Tri-Cities and New Kent, the most likely totals are closer to 1 or 2 inches.

Intensity of the rain or snow will be light to start, turn steadier by around daybreak, then taper to lighter showers by midday.

Some outlier computer models depict several inches or more for Richmond. Fundamentally, if this were just a rain event, it would give us about 0.75 to 1 inch. So if it were all snow, it could theoretically approach those levels. And some parts of the Piedmont off to our west will approach several inches.

But there are a few factors that make such a heavy amount unrealistic for the whole metro area.

• The warm conditions preceding the system, leading to some of it melting on contact.

• Periods of rainfall, which could eat away at the accumulations.

• A “wetter” snow (as opposed to the fluffy and dry kind) means a lower snow-to-liquid ratio. In other words, the default computerized snow maps are already a significant overestimate.

A heavy snowfall rate can overcome those limitations, but for now there are more reasons why it will be kept to less than 6 inches.

During the precipitation, readings will mostly hover in the mid-to-lower 30s around metro Richmond.

After it clears out, we could head for the 40s on Sunday afternoon. This snow is likely to melt faster than what we saw last weekend.

But clearing skies on Sunday night will allow for post-storm lows in the 20s, which means more of a concern for any slush or standing water refreezing on roads.

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Surface weather map for Sunday morning, Feb. 7, showing an area of low pressure off the North Carolina coast that could provide snow chances to Virginia.

Look for more updates this weekend.

Check Richmond.com/weather for John Boyer’s forecast updates. Contact him at JBoyer@timesdispatch.com.

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