Weather! A very cold, bipolar weekend ahead

You’ve got big winter weather questions, I’ve got big winter weather answers. The threat this weekend won’t be the snow, it’s going to be the cold temperatures that we haven’t seen most of the winter.

I know, I know. It’s Friday, you’re anxiously looking forward to the weekend, and you’ve got one big gray weather-related question hanging over your head this weekend:

What’s going on with the local weather radar?

The radar is currently offline for a major technology upgrade. It will be back online no later than February 16th, barring any unforeseen delays. In the meantime, we’re a little handcuffed, as the Wakefield radar is responsible for providing coverage for the southeastern 1/3 of Virginia. In the meantime, the National Weather Service has coverage from several adjacent radars. Because of the distant location of these adjacent radar sites and the curvature of the earth, we’re not able to see a lot of what may fall precipitation-wise over eastern VA until the radar returns to service.

In the meantime, I’d recommend using one of the two lower-powered Doppler radar units operated by either CBS 6 or NBC 12.

Oh, that’s not your question? Something about this mysterious “snow” thing that can allegedly fall from the sky when it’s cold? Yeah, let’s take a look at that.

This weekend is going to be a bit bipolar. After a warm start today and tomorrow morning, the cold air finally flows into Virginia, thanks to one of the deepest cold air masses I’ve seen all winter.

Friday: We’re starting today a bit cool, though certainly still pretty mild. After a low of 30 this morning, we’ll make it to the low 50s by later this afternoon. However, the ridge of high pressure that has kept skies clear for the last day or so is being pushed offshore by the cold air mass. Clouds will begin to stream in from the southeast later today, and we’ll end with overcast skies and some light rain showers possible from sunset through the overnight hours. Overnight lows will be in the upper 30s. Given the temperatures we’re going to be dealing with – especially with very little temperature loss from the surface up to 5000 feet, there is NO THREAT of snow tonight and Saturday morning. Any precipitation that does fall will be in the form of rain.

Saturday: Saturday is where things get interested. We’ll start off under mostly cloudy skies still, with showers winding down around sunrise. The timing of this cold front is going to be crucial, and there’s a bit of disagreement about when this actually happens. Winds will switch from the southwest to the west and northwest as the front approaches and rapidly intensify in speed. Once you see an increase from a light breeze, that’s your sign that the front has passed. Temperatures will peak in the upper 40s before dropping sharply behind the front; temperatures will fall into the low 20s tomorrow night.

Regarding snow: there’s going to be a very narrow window that starts when the front passes and ends about three hours after; if – and this is a very big if – some snow may mix in with the rain. Because we’ve still got a warm, wet ground from Friday’s precip, I don’t think anything will accumulate except on really cold surfaces like cars. Some lucky areas may get as much as a light coating on the ground, but that’s about it. There’s no need to panic, and no need to bumrush the Cartown Kroger. Well, at least because of the snow. Saturday afternoon and early evening will be the best chance to see any flakes, but don’t expect to be able to do anything more than run around and catch them in your mouth before they melt.

I mentioned that temperatures are going to get down in the low 20s Saturday night. We’re also going to get some very gusty winds beginning Saturday afternoon as the front passes, going from gusts of 10 mph ahead of the front to 30 mph or more after it passes. This is going to send wind chills down into the single digits and teens from Saturday afternoon through Sunday night.

Sunday: The heart of the cold air moves in on Sunday. Strong wind gusts continue, again reaching 25 – 30 mph at times, and high temperatures will struggle to get past freezing. Clearing skies will help improve things somewhat, but lows fall back into the low 20s Sunday night, with wind chills in the teens.

The cold ends as quickly as it arrived, however. The return of southwesterly flow aloft by Monday and Tuesday will send temperatures back into the 40s and near 50 next week. I’m sorry, snow lovers, it’s just not your winter.

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Weather Dan

Dan Goff is now a two-time former Richmonder, having departed the River City yet again in favor of southwest Virginia, where he is working on degrees in geography and meteorology at Virginia Tech. Have a question about the weather or weather-related phenomena?

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