Published: 2010-12-25 07:20:00
Updated: 2010-12-25 21:49:07
Posted December 25, 2010 7:20 a.m. EST
Updated December 25, 2010 9:49 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolinians who didn't wake up Saturday to a white Christmas are still likely to go to bed with visions of a winter wonderland fulfilled.
Snow began falling in the mountains Saturday morning and was spreading from Roxboro and Hillsborough through Louisburg and Warrenton by mid-afternoon.
"This has been a tough on to call," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said. "The forecast models have been back and forth and up and down like a window blind, and this thing still has some uncertainty to it."
Even as rain began to fall in Raleigh, Fishel said the total accumulation was in question.
"The Triangle will likely see light snow this evening. Throughout the evening we could see up to one inch of snow," WRAL meteorologist Kim Deaner said.
"It looks like for most of us the heavy-hitting snow will take place overnight as a storm takes shape along the Carolina coast," Fishel said.
By the time the system moves out of the Triangle, Raleigh could see 5 or 6 inches of snow, he said.
"One little jog to the west in the low pressure off the coast could mean more snow for the Triangle and less for the coast," Deaner said.
A winter storm warning covers the state from the mountains to coast. It is in effect from 6 p.m. Saturday through midnight Sunday.
Temperatures will dip into the upper 20s Saturday night, and it'll stay cold to start the new week.
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton declared a state of emergency for the entire state Saturday that allows the governor or lieutenant governor to mobilize resources to respond to a storm.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation warned that travel could be treacherous early Sunday, Monday and even Tuesday mornings.
Dozens of Triangle-area churches canceled services for Sunday, and the DOT advised those who could avoid driving to stay off the roads.
Carolinas Christmas snow would be a rare sight for almost everyone.
Raleigh has not seen snow accumulation at the airport on Christmas Day since 1947. Greensboro, which hasn't seen Christmas snow since 1962, is forecast to get about an inch.
In the mountains, Asheville hasn't had snow on Dec. 25 since 1981, when 3 inches fell. By Sunday night, the area could see 7 to 12 inches, the National Weather Service said.
The North Carolina coast – where the most snow is forecast to fall this weekend – is the surprise leader in white Christmases.
The last big snow near Christmas in the Carolinas came in 1989, when up to a foot fell in the days before Dec. 25 from Hilton Head Island, through Wilmington and up to the Outer Banks. The snow came just months after Hurricane Hugo devastated the area.