winter preparedness week in Virginia
November 29- December 5, 2015
Today's topic - heavy snow.
Storm systems developing and/or intensifying along the eastern
Seaboard between December and March are oftwn responsible for
producing most of the heavy snows in Virginia. These systems,
called nor'easters, can also produce strong winds which may result
in blizzard conditions and huge snow drifts.
Heavy snow tends to occur 100 to 150 miles to the northwest of the
track of the surface low. Snow amounts well in excess of 30 inches
have occurred with nor'easters in Virginia. In addition... strong
winds and very cold temperatures in this same area can result in
blizzard or near blizzard conditions... dangerous wind chill
values... and have resulted in snow drifts up to 12 feet high.
The exact track the surface low pressure takes and how much cold air
is in place ahead of the system... determines if and where heavy snow
will occur. Given that cold air is in place... a surface low that
travels a hundred miles or so off the coast can produce some snow in
the central portion of the state... with the potential for heavy snow
confined to the eastern portions of the state. If the surface low
travels along the coast or slightly inland... heavy snow is most
likely west of the Virginia Piedmont.
If the amount of cold air in place is marginal for snow... it is
possible that heavy wet snow could occur in the higher elevations
with just a cold rain in the lower elevations.
Heavy snow is capable of bringing down tree limbs and power lines
which may result in power outages. In rare instances... heavy snow
may result in the collapse of roofs of buildings and homes.
In addition... heavy snow may result in snow covered or ice covered
roads. This typically leads to vehicle accidents and potentially
major traffic jams. If there is enough heavy snow and/or wind...
some roads may be closed and other roads may only be successfully
traversed by 4 wheel drive vehicles.
The following is a summary of historic snowstorms in Virginia.
February 5-6 2010 - more than a foot of snow north of a Wallops
Island to Hot Springs line... with 2 feet of snow across far
northern Virginia. At least 6 inches of snow fell in most areas
south of this line.
December 18-19 2009 - a foot or more of snow fell across much of
Virginia... except the southeast quarter... where lesser amounts
fell. Little snow fell across Hampton Roads. Snowfall records
for a single December storms were set in some areas of northern
February 14-18 2003 - 7 to 36 inches of snow across central and
northern Virginia (highest far north)... significant ice southern
January 24-25 2000- 6 to 19 inches of snow across much of central
and eastern Virginia.
January 6-7 1996 - 12 to 30 inches of snow in much of western...
central... and northern Virginia. A few locations in the mountains
received over 3 feet of snow. Twenty four hour snowfall records were
established at Roanoke and Lynchburg. In Virginia... there was one
fatality directly attributed to the storm. In the mountains...
strong winds on January 8th created snow drifts up to 10 feet high.
March 12-15 1993 - 20 to 30 inches of snow with some amounts over 3
feet in the mountains. In the foothills... 10 to 18 inches of snow
fell. In Virginia... there was one fatality directly attributed to
the storm. In the mountains... strong winds up to 50 mph whipped
drifts up to 12 feet high and created near blizzard conditions.
February 10-12 1983 - 10 to 20 inches of snow in a large portion of
Virginia with up to 30 inches of snow in northern portions of the
state. The storm established 24 hour snowfall records at Roanoke...
Lynchburg... and Richmond.
March 1-2 1980 - a true blizzard in portions of southeastern Virginia
with 12 to 20 inches of snow. Strong winds resulted in snow drifts
up to 8 feet high.
February 18-19 1979 - this storm known as "the presidents day storm"
dumped 6 to 15 inches of snow in much of Virginia with up to 20
inches of snow in northern portions of the state. Nearly 12 inches of
snow occurred in Richmond with 8 inches in Norfolk.
March 5-8 1962 - 10 to 24 inches of snow in many interior portions
Being prepared means making good decisions based on information
contained in outlooks... watches... warnings... advisories... other
statements and forecasts from the National Weather Service. The key
is to know what to do in advance. If a winter storm like what
occurred in 1993 or 1996 was predicted to hit Virginia in two
days... what would you do between now and when the storm arrives to
get ready? You should make sure you have enough food... water and
medication for several days. You also need to be prepared for the
loss of power and/or heat.
Governor Terry mcauliffe has declared the week of November 29 to
December 5, 2015 as winter preparedness week in Virginia. The
National Weather Service /NWS/ offices serving Virginia... in
cooperation with the Virginia department of emergency
management... will send public information statements over the NOAA
weather wire service each day through Saturday at approximately 11
am. These statements will focus on different aspects of winter
weather in the mid Atlantic region... and preparedness actions the
public should take for the upcoming winter season.
Below is a link to the NOAA winter outlook for 2015-16.
Additional information on winter weather preparedness can be
obtained on-line through the Virginia department of emergency
management home Page. The url is (in lower case):
In addition... the ready Virginia and ready North Carolina web
sites haves been developed to aid virginians and north carolinians
in their overall disaster preparedness. The urls are:
http://www.Vaemergency.Gov/readyvirginia /English version/
http://www.Vaemergency.Gov/listovirginia /Spanish version/
http://readync.Org/ /English version/
http://listonc.Org/ /Spanish version/
Up-to-date weather information is also available on-line from the
following National Weather Service sites (all urls in lower case):
NWS Wakefield - http://weather.Gov/akq
NWS Sterling - http://weather.Gov/lwx
NWS Blacksburg - http://weather.Gov/rnk
NWS Charleston WV - http://weather.Gov/rlx
NWS Morristown TN - http://weather.Gov/mrx
NWS Raleigh NC - http://weather.Gov/rah
National Weather Service winter weather awareness home Page -
warning coordination meteorologist
NOAA/National Weather Service