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Winter Outlook: Ice, Sleet Chances Higher this Year, Windy & Mild

Written by Jamey Singleton. Posted in News

laninaIt's always fun writing about something you know people are going to like and share because they are so excited about it. In all of my years of forecasting, nothing has generated more buzz on social media and in the public than talk of a major snow. Maybe that's why we always hear how "bad" every winter is supposed to be, according to "them".

"They say..."

WHO says?

I've always wondered that.

As I look ahead to this winter, it's hard to ignore the La Nina in place. The cooling of water in the eastern Pacific is the sister of the more popular El Nino. If weather patterns were Brady Bunch characters, La Nina would certainly be Jan; kinda boring and plain compared to other more eventful winters in our area.

The La Nina pattern in the winter favors a stronger Polar Jet to our north, with a very weak, almost nonexistent southern jet to our south. Most of the major snows and winter storms stay north of our area, but we get the temperature swings beneath them.

It's not uncommon during La Nina winters to see very mild stretches for weeks, with cold front after cold front from the west zipping by us with very strong winds. 

With the gulf closed for business, the only snow we usually see occurs on the western slopes of the higher mountains in West Virginia and the Highlands and Mountain Empire. The ski resorts should do very well this year.

As far as getting snow to fall across the rest of the area, we still have hope. 

Every La Nina is different. This winter's should be fairly weak. That would allow other weather oscillations to "buckle" the jet stream and force it south toward the gulf. The blocking that results from the other patterns is what allows for our classic snow storms during the winter months. 

There's also a chance La Nina could weaken late in the winter. Remember, we can get big snows, even in March! 

Overall, though, I expect snowfall to be below the normal yearly total of 23" in the Roanoke area. 

I believe we will see warm, mild periods fight cold outbreaks. 

In between, I'm more concerned for freezing rain and sleet events as warm Pacific air fights any cold air left behind by several cold fronts this winter.

Time will tell, though. Remember long-range forecasts are far from perfect. There's no reason not to have the shovels and sleds ready.

As always, I will have updates all winter long.

Things have a way of changing when it comes to weather, so stay tuned.