Snow/Cold Return Ahead Of The Groundhog's Forecast
A deceptively pleasant morning kicked off the month of February with temperatures in the 40s and even 50s in our region. However, a cold front is approaching from the upper Ohio Valley and will push through this afternoon. As it does, some jetstream energy will work in tandem with it to produce a swatch of rain that will expand into the I-64 corridor this afternoon. Temperatures will begin dropping quickly, falling into the 30s areawide by late afternoon...and making for a chilly rain as kids are heading home from school and parents leave work. As the air continues to cool I expect to see green on radar change to blue in parts of Kentucky and southern Ohio, along with eastern West Virginia by the latter half of the evening drive...indicating a change to wet snow. In fact, we could see some big snowflakes in this setup and it will be a wet snow that we transition to. Right now it looks like that transition will occur in the Charleston/Huntington area around 7-8 pm.
Once we've made the switch to wet snow I expect it will fall moderate to heavy for about 3-4 hours before ending around or just after midnight. As a result, it's not a long event...plus we're coming off to 50+ degree days and temperatures will still be in the low to mid 30s this evening. As a result, there will be some melting occurring initially, especially in the urban areas and lower valleys. Still, the snow should fall fast enough to cool the ground and will stick to grassy surfaces and cars and rooftops first. A slush will build up on roads as the snow tapers off...then the concern shifts to a freeze up as we fall into the 20s and then teens overnight behind that front.
The snow accumulation forecast is tricky because of the melting factor and the relatively short duration. Right now I think most of us are looking at 1-2" this evening...but remember that will come in a pretty short period of time. The higher totals are more likely on the hilltops rather than urban areas....so downtown Charleston could be closer to 1" while the surrounding hills like Bridge Road, Southridge and the Airport see 2" or a little more. Meanwhile, a quick 2-4" will fall down the WV Turnpike from southern Kanawha County into Fayette and Raleigh County...and up the US 19 corridor. This will have a bigger impact on roads there where temperatures will get colder faster. Fluffier snow showers will return toward dawn, especially near and east of US 19...and that's why I'm indicating 4 to as much as 8" of snow in eastern Nicholas, Raleigh, western Greenbrier, Pocohontas and Randolph Counties.
The Groundhog may want to stay in his hole tomorrow. Not only will there be several inches of snow on the ground in Upshur County for French Creek Freddy...but temperatures will be in the teens and wind chills will be around 0 there. Ouch!
In spite of some afternoon sun Friday afternoon temperatures will struggle to get much higher than 20 degrees...not unlike what we had this past Tuesday. A frigid start to Saturday (0 or below in eastern WV) will give way to a quiet afternoon near 40....but another system will bring more snow and rain for Super Bowl Sunday. This system may be a reverse of today's...with a burst of snow before dawn, changing to sleet and then rain Sunday morning. The greatest accumulation is likely west of the Ohio River this time and in the mountains of WV. Fortunately it appears we're above freezing in the afternoon and evening for the big game itself...but a change back to snow showers late Sunday into Monday is likely.