Raleigh, N.C. — The National Weather Service has issued a Saturday winter weather advisory for counties in and around the Triangle as light rain expected to fall in the late afternoon could turn to snow.
The advisory is in effect from 4 p.m. Saturday to 4 a.m. Sunday for Wake, Johnston, Durham, Person, Granville, Vance, Warren, Halifax, Franklin, Nash, Edgecombe, Wilson, Harnett, Wayne, Scotland, Hoke, Cumberland and Sampson counties.
But WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said a blanketing of the white stuff is unlikely.
"There's a lot of things that can go wrong with this system if you're a snow lover," Fishel said.
Friday's sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s offered no hint of the precipitation expected to fall Saturday evening. No significant accumulations are expected; the forecast calls for a trace to 1 inch of snow for the region.
Cool temperatures will become cold throughout the day Saturday, allowing rain to change over to snow during the evening hours. As the front approaches, the cold air behind it will combine with moisture from a low pressure system off the North Carolina coast.
The timing of the front's arrival will be key in how much snow the Triangle sees.
"Classically, this is a cold-air-chases-the-moisture setup," said WRAL meteorologist Nate Johnson. "At some point, the rain will change over to snow, from west to east, as the precipitation is coming to an end."
Rocky Mount, Roanoke Rapids and other towns north and east of the Triangle have the greatest chance of snow accumulation, he said.
"If you want to play in it – probably not," Johnson said of the snowfall. "But if you want to see it fall, we're confident you'll see that tomorrow."
The wet snow could be enough to cause icy spots on the roads early Sunday morning, when temperatures will be slow to rise from freezing overnight.
"Temperatures here at the ground could easily be above freezing during much, if not this entire event, which would nullify the chance of it causing any road problems during the day tomorrow," Fishel said. "Tomorrow night, with the leftover water on the streets and temperatures going down into the 20s ... that really may be the bigger issue with this system, not so much the snow accumulation."
Because rain will fall before any snow, state and local transportation officials said they won't send out trucks to brine the roads ahead of time. However, spreader operators will be on standby Saturday, in case the weather forecast worsens.
Trooper Scott Baker with the North Carolina Highway Patrol said he hopes not to see a repeat of the wintry mix that caused slippery roads last month, leading to hundreds of accidents.
"You have more calls than you have troopers," Baker said. "We handle the most serious calls we can."
Todd McGowan, owner of Haddock Collision Center in Cary, said the icy roads on Jan. 25 meant an uptick in business at his garage.
"I would probably guess 300 (damaged vehicles) directly attributable to that ice storm," he said.
The Highway Patrol is urging drivers to stay off the roads if conditions get slick.
"Stay inside," Baker said. "If you do go out, exercise caution."
Highs Sunday will climb into the low 40s under abundant sunshine.
Average temperatures will return early next week, with daytime highs topping out in the low 50s for most of the work week.