Arctic-like temperatures expected to chill valley

Ice floats along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in a view from the Wilson J. Burke Senior Memorial Bridge off Rivermont Drive in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

Residents in the Northern Shenandoah Valley will see unusually cold temperatures between today and Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

The sub-zero temperatures follow Monday’s snowstorm as well as a fast-moving system that dropped under an inch of snow across the valley on Wednesday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Kyle Struckmann said Wednesday that arctic cold air will push through the region this week.

“What we are going to get in the next couple of days, and what we had last week, is probably the coldest air we’ve seen come down into the area this winter,” Struckmann said.

Counties including Shenandoah, Warren, Frederick and Clarke were placed under a wind chill advisory for midnight Wednesday through 10 a.m. Friday.

“After this front comes through, it is going to be pulling down air that originates from pretty far up into Canada,” Struckmann said, adding that the wind will pick up as a low pressure system develops off of the New England coast.

Struckmann said the colder temperatures plus the wind chill will feel like as much as 20 degrees below zero.

Today’s high is expected to reach 12 degrees, with an overnight low of minus 4 degrees. Friday’s temperatures are expected to reach a high of 19 degrees before dropping to 5 degrees that night.

For this area, Struckmann said, “Over the course of a winter, you could see this once or twice. Basically, it’s unusually cold, but it’s not unprecedented.”

Given the expected temperatures, Struckmann said residents should try to “stay inside as much as possible” and “and when you are out, just make sure to be as covered up as possible.”

He said wind chills in excess of 20 degrees below zero can cause frostbite fairly quickly.

“If the wind chill is about minus 20, it would take about 30 minutes for frostbite to develop for any exposed skin,” Struckmann said.

The biggest concerns from this system, he said, are the frigid temperatures.

“As temperatures drop … here is always the risk that anything that is wet could refreeze,” he said, “It kind of depends on the treatment of the road, too.”

As is the case with sub-freezing temperatures, Struckmann noted that untreated surfaces will be more prone to refreezing than treated surfaces.

Sandy Myers, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said that crews will make “judgment calls regarding” any additional abrasive or salt treatments.

“If the road is dry, then we are not going to put anything on it,” Myers said, adding that treatment also depended on how much snow localities received from Wednesday’s showers.

In addition to the subfreezing conditions, residents may see more wintry precipitation this Friday and Saturday.

“Over the weekend, we may have a little snow coming in at some point in time Friday night into Saturday,” Struckmann added.

The kind of precipitation — snow, sleet or rain — that the valley gets “kind of depends on the timing,” Struckmann said.

“By the time we get to Sunday … it is going to be warming up, so it would probably change over to rain if it is still doing anything,” he said.

At the moment, the National Weather Service is still looking at models and the progression of this system in order to determine possible accumulation totals.

“It is a little early to tell, although it does not look like it’s going to be a significant amount at this time,” Struckmann said.

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Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com