The Zombie Winter of 2013
…or perhaps “The Winter That Wouldn’t Go Away” would be more appropriate to describe things. Not only is unseasonably cold air hanging around way past its expiration date – it IS officially spring already – but the next storm we are facing is following the continuing pattern of frustratingly difficult snow/ice/rain forecasts. Once again Fredericksburg and its immediate vicinity will teeter on the threshold of very little snow just to the east and perhaps a satisfying dump of white stuff (for snow lovers) just to the west. Even to begin crafting this blog post I’ve had to crank up the classic rock playlist on my iTouch to keep me sane…
Meanwhile today will bring noticeably warmer temperatures than yesterday’s pitiful high of 40 degrees (F), almost twenty degrees below normal for this time of March. Despite a low temperature of 20 degrees this morning at the UMW weather station today will warm into the low 50s with somewhat lighter breezes than the past couple of days. Saturday will actually be a decent weekend day under mostly sunny skies with a high temperature in the mid-50s, still a few degrees cooler than average but respectable. Then conditions begin to deteriorate Saturday night as the next storm enters the picture.
This system looks like it will be a classic “Miller B” event, a term that refers to a storm that slides up the Ohio Valley before giving up its energy to a newly forming surface low pressure off the East Coast. To illustrate this here is a surface forecast map from the Canadian model for 8 a.m. Monday:
Notice the surface low (black “L”) over Ohio and the newly forming low over Virginia Beach. At this time the western storm is beginning to dissipate while the coastal system strengthens. Now check out this forecast map for 2 p.m. Monday afternoon (six hours later):
The western low has almost completely disappeared while the coastal storm has matured considerably. Now notice the color shading of the precipitation shield, with green being rain, blue as snow, and yellow as the icy mix in between. Guess where Fredericksburg resides? You got it…in the messy middle.
So what will this mean for potential snowfall/ice totals? Once again a few hundred feet in elevation will make all the difference. The surface freezing line (32 degrees) will waver back and forth over the Piedmont during the storm’s approach and evolution from the Ohio Valley system to the coastal low development. Fredericksburg will be on the eastern edge of that line overnight Sunday and early Monday, meaning the city will likely see some accumulating snow but not as much as western Stafford and Spotsylvania counties (more school closings Monday?). The WPC‘s thoughts about snow accumulations through Monday morning are shown here:
The green contour running right through Fredericksburg and up I-95 toward DC represents a 40% probability of at least four inches of snow accumulating by 8 a.m. Monday morning. (Blue line is 10% while the red line is 70%.)
As the coastal low develops Monday there will be more precipitation to come but current trends seem to indicate that the ‘Burg will be warm enough by that time for this moisture be a rain/snow mix that won’t accumulate any further. However the counties closer to the Blue Ridge may experience a very heavy wet snow Monday afternoon. Given this winter’s propensity to throw looping curveballs at forecasters I wouldn’t be surprised to see forecast snow accumulation maps from different media outlets to be posted soon only to be revised several times by Monday.
Now, anyone for spring?