Rain, Snow, Sleet….The Area’s First Winter Storm Is Shaping Up To Be Sloppy.

Good Thursday Evening. Here is an updated on the impending winter storm that is to impact our area over the weekend. This update sponsored by Mi Paloma Mexican Restaurant on Independence Blvd in Morganton.

An upper level low pressure center will dive out of the Northern Rockies tomorrow and move toward the southeast US. As the system approaches Georgia, a secondary low pressure will develop along the coastline and move Northeast. Exact development timing, strength, and location will all be an important part to this systems impacts to our area. The closer to the coast the system organizes, the more winter weather we will receive.

This is a super dynamic system. The atmosphere aloft will be primed for a snow event but the lower levels of the atmosphere may not support only snow. That is because after you drop down to 2500 ft, the air temperatures rise to above freezing. So anyone below 2500 ft could see a lot of rain. There is likely to be a very sharp cut off line as too who receives snow accumulation and who doesn’t. Surface temperatures below 2500 ft likely will remain above freezing too, unless the system has enough moisture to dynamically cool the layer. When a heavy burst of precipitation moves over any area, you will likely notice a change to all snow. That is because that heavy precipitation will be able to bring down the sub freezing temperatures. It isn’t out of the question that steadier heavier precipitation prevails late Sunday Morning. So that heavy burst could produce a quick slushy couple of inches of snow but ten miles down the road you see green grass.

It is still too soon for a first call map as I would like to evaluate further model data tonight before making a hypothesis on exactly how much falls, where. That being said, we do have a first thoughts map on who will see the most snow and who has a better opportunity of seeing rain.

All of this will lift northeast out of the area by Sunday Night and then temperatures return to near normal for Monday. Of course, widespread temperatures will be impacted by who has snowpack and who doesn’t.

Above are the latest headlines for this event.

Above are the chances of seeing at least one inch of snow.

Our latest of thinking of how this all plays out minus the precipitation. The upper low moves out of the midwest tomorrow night and into the southeast by Saturday. Sunday the new low develops just west of Charleston SC and then tracks Northeast up the coast. The upper level energy will rotate through our area on the day Sunday, keeping precipitation falling from the sky. All of this while high pressure over the northeast moves offshore.

Ensemble model mean high temperature projections for Sunday.

Our first thoughts are that the light blue shaded ridgetops will see very heavy snow. With moisture content levels high, totals on the highest ridgetops could be 20 inches or greater. In the dark blue though we think the valleys will see some mix of rain in with the wet snow. This will be a mainly snow event in these areas too though with significant accumulations possible. Across the purple shaded areas we expect rain to mix with snow and sleet and to transition in and out of all three precipitation types. Significant accumulations remain possible in that purple shaded area but there will be a sharp cutoff line. Someone ten miles up the road could receive a couple of inches of snow, while another area receives little to no accumulation. In the light pink shading we expect mainly a rain event with this system but there will likely be periods of snow under those heaviest bands of precipitation.

I always look for analog setups. If interested in researching these types of events The North Carolina State Climate Office is great. This has some similarities to the setup that produced widespread snow across NC in January 1988. It isn’t exact but is the most similar event that I can find. Below are snow totals that system brought to the area. Again, NOT saying this will happen but the setup is simlar.

All of that said and thrown out there, here is our Winter Storm Index. We remain at a level two, Prep the roads, with this system. We will evaluate this system again tomorrow and update, along with a first call map. Stay with us as we keep you ahead of the storm in a non-hyped enviornment.

Published by wxchristopher

Chief Meteorologist

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