RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The National Weather Service is warning Virginians of hazardous travel west of Interstate 95 due to a “significant ice storm” that is expected to hit the state tonight.
A powerful winter storm over the central part of the United States will continue to push toward Virginia over the next 24 hours. As this storm system gets closer, cold air will be locked into the deeper valleys throughout the Shenandoah Valley. This will set the stage for the possibility of freezing rain — or what we would consider an ice storm.
Freezing rain is when rain falls out of the clouds to the ground, but the temperatures on the ground and on surfaces such as decks, sidewalks, power lines, roadways and trees are all well below freezing. The rain that falls freezes on contact with those surfaces, giving us an accumulation of ice.
Typically, ice accumulation of 1/4″ or more has enough weight to start to break power lines. It also makes driving extremely tough, as this type of weather creates a skating rink on roadways.
It does not make a difference if you have front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, all the tires will spin and you can lose control in a matter of seconds. It is truly advised not to drive anywhere if an ice storm is in the forecast.
Closures are possible on major roadways in central and western Virginia, including I-81, I-68, I-66, I-64, I-70 and I-270. According to the National Weather Service in Baltimore, the storm is expected to begin on the night of Wednesday, Dec. 14 and last until around the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 15.
There is a chance that we could see some minor ice accumulation in Louisa County, western Goochland County, northwestern Powhatan County, Cumberland County north of US Highway 60, Buckingham County, Fluvanna County and Spotsylvania County.
In these areas, ice accumulation will probably be less than a 1/10″, which might create a few power disruptions but nothing widespread. By the time we get to mid-morning on Thursday, warmer air will begin to push into those areas and we will transition to rain and any ice will melt. Keep in mind, it is going to be a cold rain, as temperatures will only climb into the upper 30s to near 40 west of the Richmond area.
Across the Richmond area and all areas south and east, this will be a very chilly and persistent rain, as it will begin later this evening and continue into Thursday night. We could pick up between one to two inches of rain as this system moves through.