Snowmageddon: Friday in Charlottesville 'could get ugly'
Punxsutawney Phil could be right. The National Weather Service predicted a 100 percent chance of snow Tuesday night with four to six inches possible. (We got about three.) But this weekend is bringing so much precipitation that UVA climatologist Jerry Stenger says, "It could get ugly."
When asked about rumors of a 20-inch snowfall for the February 5-7 weekend, Stenger replies, "The models have been suggesting something like this since last week, and they've been pretty consistent.
"It looks like a very interesting event starting Friday–- a lot of water," he says. "We're not quite sure how this is going to break."
The weekend storm is tracking along the Atlantic coast in the form of a nor'easter, says Stenger. What's not clear is what form the precipation will take– rain, freezing rain (that's the one that takes down power lines, tree limbs and is "the most destructive," says Stenger), snow or sleet.
"Right now, it's leaning toward all four," says Stenger. "It could start off with freezing rain." If that happens, he describes a scenario of 1 to 1.5 inches of ice topped off by 4 to 5 inches of snow.
"If it's an all-snow event, we could be updating the forecast in feet, not inches," predicts Stenger. That means 15 to 20 inches of snow previously rumored could actually happen.
Snowfall for the January 30 storm measured 10.5 inches at McCormick Observatory, bringing this winter's precipitation to 34.2 inches. "That's about twice what we normally get," says Stenger.
The good news: A drought this year is unlikely. Says Stenger, "The ground will have no shortage of moisture."
And how accurate is Punxsutawney Phil, who saw his shadow on Groundhog Day? "I would say if it's only six weeks [of winter], we'll be happy," says Stenger, reminding that the snow season can last "well into March."
As for this weekend's Snowmaggeden, temperature changes and storm tracking changes make it very difficult to predict exactly what will happen, says Stenger.
The prediction he will make: "It's going to be a doozy."
Original headline: 4-6" tonight: Friday in Charlottesville 'could get ugly'