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Snow depends on how close coastal low comes to NC

Posted December 16, 2010
Updated December 17, 2010

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— Central and coastal North Carolina got a brief respite from winter weather Friday before another round of snow and rain threatens.

All eyes Saturday will be on a coastal low expected to form in the Gulf of Mexico and then track up the East Coast.

"This is one of those really tricky situations. It's a coastal storm, which can always be difficult to predict," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

Coastal lows form rapidly, and until they finally develop, predicting their exact track is difficult. And it's that storm track that will determine whether central North Carolina gets snow Saturday night.

"That's the big question: Is the low going to come close enough to the coast to spread the precipitation across our viewing area? Or is it mainly going to stick to the coast or maybe along and east of Interstate 95?" Gardner said.

Rain will fall in eastern North Carolina during the day Saturday. If the precipitation comes far enough inland, the Triangle region could see a burst of snow late Saturday into early Sunday.

"I would give us a 50-50 shot for that snow on Saturday," Gardner said. "If we have enough moisture come through on Sunday, at least for the Triangle area, it would most likely be snow."

The daylight hours of Sunday and all of Monday appear as if they will be precipitation-free. Highs will stay in the upper 30s and low 40s.

Then, on Tuesday, another weather system again raises the possibility of snow or rain.

"Right now it looks warm enough on Tuesday for just rain, but the way our patterns been lately, we don’t want to take that for granted yet," Gardner said.

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  • ndzapruder Dec 17, 2010

    "Limited tools? Oh, you must mean the 1/2 million dollars worth of fancy electronics that creates those forecast models that they exclusively follow now days verses using some of the skills they may have once gathered in school or using any common sense at all, such as, if it's above freezing chances are it isn't going to freeze! Yeah, those are limited tools alright."

    It doesn't matter how much the equipment costs; it's running a program written by a human programmer. It's imperfect and it's also the best they've got. No amount of money can build a machine that will give consistently precise long-term forecasts of the currents in a glass of water, let alone an earth-sized fluid atmosphere.

    Also, no one gets a bachelor's degree in meteorology without at least two semesters of calculus-based physics. Trust me -- learning to differentiate the velocity of a particle doesn't cause you to forget the freezing temperature of water.

  • jon_ncsu Dec 17, 2010

    If the models keep flip flopping, which they have been like Elizabeth says, then experience will tell them what to call for our area...until then, they won't say an exact amount because it's still too far out to put down exact precip totals.

    This low has been out to sea on some runs or it has been plowing RDU with several inches. Search model sites in google. Look at the NAM, GFS, ECMWF, CMC, JMA...when you're done analyzing every model run that happens daily, come back and offer your own forecasts. Until then, have some respect. TV Meteorologists work long hours to forecast weather for your own safety.

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Dec 17, 2010

    "Wonder what happened to that drier than normal winter we were supposed to get"

    You must mean El Nina. I heard it's hanging out at a local Moe's just waiting until January 5th when it should be ready to kick in full force and our temps will average 70 through March with not a drop of rain. So winter should end before it begins pretty much. Hang in there.

  • twilson2 Dec 17, 2010

    Y'all give the TV weather team a break. I had the good fortune of Uncle Sam providing my weather forecasting training and 25 year career. North Carolina is not an easy forecast to make, especially around the Triangle. Influence from the mountains, coast, Sandhills, geographic upslope of surface elevations east to west and south to north, lakes, cities, and even interstate highways. Weather systems cross NC like riding a rollercoaster. WRAL is doing a fine job by me. News and weather are facts to help me make my own decisions and TV sponsors want some level of entertainment thrown in. Keep up the good work, I appreciate the effort.

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Dec 17, 2010

    "No more snow - we haven't had any yet!"

    Now there's the most accurate statement of the month. 3 puny events and a grand total of, drummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm rolllllllllllllllll pleaseeeeeeeeeee,

    1 inch. Maybe. 6 more inches and we'll just squeak in with our average amount. However, if it's like the true drought, the one that they don't report accurately, we should fall below that average as well this year.

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Dec 17, 2010

    "Given the limited tools they're working with ..."

    Limited tools? Oh, you must mean the 1/2 million dollars worth of fancy electronics that creates those forecast models that they exclusively follow now days verses using some of the skills they may have once gathered in school or using any common sense at all, such as, if it's above freezing chances are it isn't going to freeze! Yeah, those are limited tools alright.

  • TriangleMommy Dec 17, 2010

    Wonder what happened to that drier than normal winter we were supposed to get (and yeah yeah yeah I know it is still technically fall).

  • Piratefan Dec 17, 2010

    From what I can see on other weather sites, nobody is sure what is going to happen.

  • ksh33 Dec 17, 2010

    No more snow - we haven't had any yet!

  • this is my Screen Name Dec 17, 2010

    Hopefully the "armchair geniuses" who love to bash the WRAL meteorologists also go to the websites of accuweather, weather channel, weather underground, NOAA, National Weather Service, NBC17 and WTVD to tell them they aren't doing their jobs right as well. These weather specialists are all looking at the same reports and telling us what they are seeing. If the critics claim the best way to tell the weather is to look out the window, please do so, and quit your sarcasm and criticism here. The meteorologists are doing their jobs well and have forecast as accurately as they can.

    I hope we will have a white Christmas. Let it Snow! Thank you WRAL for your helpful forecasts.

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