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Good Saturday Afternoon,
We have gained some control on the forecast for tonight and Sunday now finally. Our Forecast Team has just completed a workshop this morning so that we can provide you with all the particulars. Let me say, it isn’t out of the question that someone across the foothills gets a surprise if the system’s dynamics remain intact.
Clouds are increasing out there this afternoon ahead of a strong weather system that is going to impact us. Tonight, precipitation in the foothills will start off as rain. The rain will spread from south to north between 6pm and midnight (timeline below). The upper level low pressure system that holds all of the dynamics is weaker, the high pressure that looked to provide us cold air at the surface is moving off the coast tonight, and the surface low along the coastline looks like it will be weaker. Nevertheless, we still think a lot of you will see snow flakes mix in with the rain Sunday. A good amount of rain is coming too, not that I’m excited about that at all *insert sad face*. First we discuss the upper level low. These upper lows are notoriously difficult to forecast but we are getting a better of idea how this one will play out. Below is what is actually going on right now. The brown contour lines are lines of constant pressure in the upper levels of the atmosphere. The blue contour lines are what is going on at the surface. I want to point out that the upper level low is sitting over Louisiana and is moving ESE. Surface cyclogenesis has already occurred in the northeast Gulf of Mexico. In the bottom graphic you can see the high pressure. To receive a good snowfall we would have needed that high pressure to move east and stay anchored to funnel cold air down the east side of the Blue Ridge. This high is transient though, meaning that it is quickly moving east, and will move off the east coast by Sunday Afternoon. The surface low pressure and upper low will move Northeast. The surface low will likely track right along the southeast coast and the upper low will track northeast, just to the west of the surface low.
Rain will become heavy overnight but it will be too warm for anything than plain ole rain. A lot of rain too. As that aforementioned surface low moves up the east coast, upslope flow will ring out the rain along the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge. This should be heavy enough to change the rain to snow across the mountains because that heavy rain will dynamically cool the atmosphere. What does dynamically cool mean? This means that the heavy precipitation will bring some of the available cold air down from aloft to lower elevations of the atmosphere. Unfortunately, we are only forecasting that subfreezing air to make it down to around 2800 ft. If you live below 2800 ft, the chances to getting down to freezing are very low. Temperatures should fall off to around 35° – 37° tonight across the foothills. Temperatures will only go up a degree or two tomorrow with the clouds and precipitation holding temperatures down.
Now we can still see snow fall in with the rain because all of the snow flakes will not have time to melt between 2700ft and the ground. There is a chance that our foothills that butt up against the mountains could see a period of all snow Sunday, but with temps above freezing it won’t stick around long. You have seen those type snows here before. Where it snows heavy for a little while, coats the grass and elevated surfaces briefly, the roads remain wet, and as soon as the precipitation wanes or stops the snow melts. That is what we are expecting here for anyone that does happen to see a period of all snow.
Winter Weather Advisories are hoisted across the eastern facing slopes of the Blue Ridge for that snow that will fall up there Sunday. Since we are expecting to stay above freezing off the escarpment, there is no need for advisories here. Winter Storm Warnings are up for the mountains, who will see greater impacts from accumulating snow.
Below are our final graphics package for this winter weather event.
Chris White, Chief Meteorologist Foothills Weather Network