Sleet turns to snow before first winter storm of 2017 moves out
Posted January 6, 2017 2:03 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 2:04 p.m. EDT
1:00 p.m.: Conditions aren't just dangerous for people venturing out in the snow trying to reach a destination -- they're also a threat for those trying to help clear roads and rescue stranded motorists. On I-40 west near Exit 289 at Harrison Avenue and Wade Avenue, traffic was backed up after a truck with a snow plow slipped off the road, crashing into the guardrail.
Roads, both primary and secondary, remain covered to the point where it is hard to see the lane dividers. Low temperatures are causing the snow to accumulate on the roads faster than seen in previous snow storms.
Although the snow is expected to stop within hours, rapidly dropping temperatures Saturday evening will ensure the wintry mix sticks.
12:45 p.m.: Sleet turned into snow mid-morning around the Triangle, adding a small but significant blanket of accumulation to the already slushy roadways.
Roads are the most trecherous north and west of Raleigh, in Orange and Durham counties, where the most precipitation fell Saturday morning and afternoon.
12:30 p.m.: Roads continue to be treacherous, especially in Rocky Mount, where streets are covered in snow and ice.
It is a quiet day around the viewing area as most businesses, including the area's large malls, are closed due to the storm and as most people heed officials' suggestions to stay off the roads.
Fishel again emphasized that, though temperatures may rise a few degrees this afternoon, temperatures will plummet Saturday evening, causing for very dangerous conditions on roads across the area.
12:10 p.m.: Westbound lanes of Interstate 40 are closed near Hillsborough in Orange County at the merge with Interstate 85 due to an accident involving a tractor trailer. Detours were posted and law enforcement officers were directing traffic away from the area.
12:00 p.m.: Light snow is still falling in many areas around the Triangle, including at the WRAL-TV station on Western Boulevard. Lovers of snow shouldn't get their hopes up, though, because WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said no more than 2 additional inches -- if that -- will accumulate. So far, Raleigh has seen totals of only 1-2 inches of sleet-covered snow.
"Temperatures are going to be so cold that it will be hard to get rid of this snow," said Gardner. "Temperatures will dive down to 9 degrees at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning, and the area could beat a record from 1970 on Monday when daytime temperatures hover around zero degrees."
"If the snow pack starts to melt, we may not get that cold, but it's certainly likely," said Gardner.
11:45 a.m.: Duke Power says about 20,000 customers statewide have lost power, the bulk of them in Mecklenburg County.
"The snow, as light as it is, still extends west towards Greensboro and Charlotte, so we probably have a few hours left of light snow in the Triangle," said WRAL chief meteorologist Greg Fishel. "Whatever does fall will be a part of the landscape, because not a lot of melting is happening at this point. Everybody should be done with the snow by late afternoon.
11:30 a.m.: According to the NCSHP, no fatalities due to weather conditions have been reported in the state. People are asked to continue to avoid driving.
11:15 a.m.: A tractor trailer on I-85 south in Orange County was involved in a weather-related wreck when it slid on the roadway and hit the wall. The driver was not injured. Road conditions remain treacherous around the Triangle but especially in areas north and west of Raleigh where the roadways are covered in accumulation.
11:00 a.m.: "Whatever falls from this point forward for most of the viewing area will be light snow," said Fishel. "There may be a light dusting yet to come on top of what you already have, but the window of opportunity for significant snow accumulations has now closed for a good part of the area."
Once the precipitation begins to wind down mid-day, some melting may occur, but temperatures will plummet when the sun goes down.
10:45 a.m.: Although roads still have the potential to be slick, workers with the Department of Transportation have been working to clear many main thoroughfares.
Wet spots on even the seemingly-clear roads will freeze overnight, though, so drivers continue to be advised to stay at home if possible.
Plows start with the largest, most-traveled roads first, like the four-lane interstates, then move to the smaller yet significant roads that take drivers to those main roads. Secondary roads and neighborhood streets follow.
10:30 a.m.: "There's still a lot of activity out there," said Fishel. "There could still be some light, spotty precipitation into the afternoon, but that should be about it."
Although temperatures will drop drastically overnight, Fishel said the area may get a brief break. "We may get just a little recovery here over the course of the next few hours with perhaps temperatures climbing back into the upper 20s once the precipitation winds down."
Later in the evening, single digit temperatures promise to make the snow and ice-covered roads even more of a threat. "Temperature is the real issue here," said Fishel.
10:15 a.m.: Most malls around the Triangle, including Triangle Town Center, Southpoint and Crabtree Valley will remain closed Saturday.
10:00 a.m.: Officials with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said that 260 vehicle accidents have been reported in the state since the storm began along with 463 calls for help. No serious injuries have been reported.
On Western Boulevard in Raleigh, the roads remain treacherous, covered in a combination of sleet, slush and powdery snow. Officials warn that, with this mix, anyone who chooses to drive needs to remain overly cautious, because the covering on the streets can change abruptly.
9:45 a.m.: A Winter Storm Warning remains in effect until 7 p.m., but roads in the area will continue to be slippery as temperatures fall into the single digits overnight. There may be some melting as precipitation clears, making for roads in the area that are just wet, but wet roads will freeze again when low temperatures approach 9 degrees Saturday night. Emergency officials in multiple counties are cautioning people to stay off the roads if at all possible.
9:30 a.m.: Fayetteville saw some snow Saturday morning, but like Wake County, there was not much. Additional snow is not likely to fall in the area, but if it does it will be light.
9:15 a.m.: "With forecasts predicting that precipitation will continue to decrease on Saturday, power outage issues should not be a significant problem in Wake County," said WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner. "Hopefully, since we won't have much more accumulation, things will clear up quickly." However, with single-digit temperatures headed our way, road conditions will continue to be a concern.
9:00 a.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper held a press conference at 8:30 a.m. to talk about the storm's impact on the state. "Despite the snow not materializing in significant amounts across most of the southeast and southwest portions of the state, there are still treacherous travel conditions in many areas," he said. "Most people have heeded the warning to stay off the roads."
The snow has caused problems for some, as more than 18,000 customers in the state have lost power, most in Mecklenburg and Harnett counties. "Nearly 2,400 employees with the Department of Transportation are out there working hard to clear the roads," he said.
As of 6 a.m., more than 260 weather-related vehicle accidents occurred in the state. With the cold weather we will see refreezing the precipitation that is on the highway tonight, if I tell you anything, it would be to stay home," said Gov. Cooper. "Do not go out to drive on the roads. If you must drive, drive slowly and leave significant space between you and other vehicles."
"This weather event is not over. Sometimes the worst accidents occur when you think the incident is over and it's not. We’ve lost too many lives in the state recently when people drive during dangerous conditions."
8:45 a.m.: On Franklin Street near the University of Chapel Hill, the road conditions are very similar to those in Durham. The area saw several inches of snow, much more than Raleigh, followed by several hours of sleet and freezing rain.
While the conditions in Raleigh may not be optimal for snow cream, sledding or snow-person building, Gardner said that the lack of snowfall may help road conditions clear up faster. "The problem is going to be the bitter cold that comes in tonight -- it may keep some of that frozen stuff around longer," she said.
The precipitation will likely continue through lunchtime, but it will be very light.
8:30 a.m.: Accumulation is extremely varied across the viewing area. About half an inch of precipitation, mostly in the form of sleet, fell at RDU, but Burlington saw up to 8 inches of snow.
According to WRAL meteorologist Mike Moss, precipitation will begin to pull away from the area Saturday afternoon, clearing overnight. Skies on Sunday will be mostly sunny, but very cold temperatures will set in overnight and into Monday morning.
8:15 a.m.: "Any precipitation we see later today will be fairly light," said WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner. "Dry air behind our viewing area will prevent any heavy bands of snow or rain from arriving as the morning continues."
Road conditions will continue to be extremely varied for the entire viewing area.
8:00 a.m.: The sleet and snow falling in Durham has stopped, but roads remain icy. Officials said the cars of six drivers in the area slid off the road overnight, and at least one wreck has been reported.
7:45 a.m.: Conditions across the viewing area are widely varied Saturday morning, but roads are slick almost everywhere.
Gardner said the chance for a few inches of snow to return to the Raleigh area is starting to fade. "In the last minutes, it's looking less likely that snow will return to the area," she said. "We may see the precipitation tapering off today just as sleet around the Triangle area."
Snow is still falling in areas north of the Triangle.
7:30 a.m.: Gardner explained that sleet is defined as the icy pellets that fall from the sky while freezing rain is the precipitation that turns into an icy glaze when it hits the ground. Even if Raleigh gets more snow, as the models predict, the ground will still have an icy feel due to Saturday morning's accumulation.
It is the areas closer to the Virginia line that are seeing the winter wonderland-type weather many were hoping for in the Triangle.
7:15 a.m.: According to Gardner, the accumulation that has been majorly freezing rain Saturday morning will likely turn to snow in the next two hours. "It could be anywhere from half an inch to 3 inches, depending on where you are," she said.
"Areas more to the north are most likely to see heavier snow, and those down to the south will see lesser amounts. For Raleigh in particular, I'd guess 1 to 2 inches."
7:00 a.m.: Sand and salt trucks are patrolling local roads to prepare for the cold days ahead that could cause treacherous, icy road conditions.
In Durham, sleet has started to fall, but the streets were already covered with a nice layer of snow. Officials are asking people to avoid driving as roads continue to worsen, especially northwest of Raleigh, where the accumulation is deeper.
Areas south of Raleigh saw mostly sleet and freezing rain overnight and into Saturday morning.
The roads in Fayetteville are a completely different story than those in Durham, with little to no snow accumulation. Officials are concerned that the heavy rain seen in that area overnight has melted the brine meant to protect road conditions from becoming icy.
At 8:30 a.m., Gov. Roy Cooper will provide a winter weather briefing that will be available to watch live on WRAL.com.
6:45 a.m.: Many lovers of snow who expected to wake up to a "winter wonderland" in Raleigh on Saturday were disappointed to see mostly sleet and rain. "A lot of models said we would get a ton of snow today, but that didn't happen," said Gardner.
According to Gardner, Raleigh is not seeing snow right now. Models show the snow mainly to the north of Raleigh, and a wintry mix is falling in Durham. There's still a possibility that the sleet could turn back into snow later Saturday morning, but it is unlikely that there will be much of it.
6:00 a.m.: A stronger band of storms coming through Raleigh early Saturday could begin the switch over to more snow, but there still won't be large amounts of accumulation.
"If we get the precipitation to fall more heavily, it is likely to cool things down through the atmosphere, and that could force that change over to snow right here in the Triangle," said Gardner.
Gardner said the change is likely to happen around 7 or 8 a.m., but, once it does, it won't last long enough to drop major amounts of snow.
"Now, whatever is left with the moisture, which may not be a whole lot, will likely accumulate," Gardner said. "That could be anywhere from maybe 1 to 3 more inches depending on where we are." Skies will begin to clear in the early afternoon.
5:45 a.m.: Snow, sleet and freezing rain accumulations are higher in Hillsborough, Burlington and Winston-Salem than around the Triangle, according to the National Weather Service.
Some parts of Durham reported 4 inches, but Raleigh only reported 2 inches of overall accumulation. The NWS said parts of the Triangle are beginning to switch over to more sleet and snow than rain.
5:20 a.m.: The National Weather Service in Raleigh reported Mebane received 5 inches of snow and sleet, while Greensboro and Roxboro both had at least 7 inches of the same.
Sleet covered Interstate 40 eastbound from Durham and the Durham Freeway, but accumulation in Raleigh has been scant.
5:00 a.m.: GoDurham said it will operate normal bus routes from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., which represents an earlier start and end to the company's day.
4:10 a.m.: According to Duke Energy, only 21 customers have been affected by the wintry conditions in Wake County.
3:50 a.m.: GoTriangle announced that it will operate routes 100, 400, 700 and 800 on Saturday from 8 am. to 6 p.m. The service's 300 route in Cary will not be available. GoDurham also announced that all of its Saturday routes will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
3:00 a.m.: Precipitation continues to cover the entire Triangle area, but the Raleigh area – now at 32 degrees – has yet to transition from freezing rain to full snow.
2:20 a.m.: WRAL meteorologist Mike Moss said northwestern parts of the Triangle should see precipitation switch to full snow over the next few hours.
"There could be places that could receive six to 10 inches – Chapel Hill, Roxboro, Oxford, and perhaps Durham," Moss said.
2:00 a.m.: Raleigh officials say no major accidents have been reported due to the current weather conditions.
1:20 a.m.: Residents in Durham reported snow has stopped falling.
1:00 a.m.: Temperatures in the Triangle, Fayetteville and the Sandhills may stay above freezing for much of the event until early Saturday morning, said WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze.
12:30 a.m.: Authorities are responding to an accident eastbound on Interstate 40 in Morrisville near mile marker 285.
12:18 a.m.: A single-vehicle accident was reported at the intersection of Church Street and Morrisville-Carpenter Road in Morrisville.
12:00 a.m.: Heavy snow began to fall and cover roads on Interstate 40 and U.S. 15-501 in Chapel Hill.
Maze said steady snow should begin falling in the Raleigh-area within the next hour.
“We’re going to see this transition area waver from the Sand Hills to the Triangle and up toward the northeast," Maze said. "It may waver back-and-forth for the next few hours."
11:45 p.m.: Snow began falling heavier and accumulating in Durham.
WRAL meteorologists Greg Fishel and Nate Johnson check out the conditions in Wake County.
11:15 p.m.: WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel pointed out the boundary that falls directly above Wake County, which divides where precipitation turns from rain to snow.
“It’s mainly rain south and east of that band and mainly snow north and west," Fishel said. "It’s going to be a complicated night in terms of where that boundary is located."
"If an area is not accumulating snow by 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. in the morning, they're not going to get anything significant."
By mid-afternoon Saturday, precipitation would be over and attention turned to the cold and how long ice will be frozen.
"We could easily be below freezing for 72 consecutive hours Saturday until Tuesday afternoon,” Fishel said. "Areas south and east of Raleigh, where there won’t be any snow, could still see temperatures down around 10."
10:45 p.m.: Regardless of what precipitation fell Friday night, WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said bitter temperatures Saturday would freeze it, leaving roads slick and dangerous.
10:30 p.m.: Snow fell steadily in Roxboro, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough and Pittsboro.
"In the immediate Triangle area, there's rain, there's snow, there's sleet, but for most of Wake County (precipitation) is the form of light rain," said WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze. "Farther south, all of it is rain, and I think for the majority of the night, this may end up being rain. It may not be until day break that some of the colder air transitions that into something frozen."
WRAL Reporter Ken Smith reported clear, wet roads in the southern part of Wake County from Drive 5. Highway patrol reminded drivers to not leave vehicles if stranded this weekend during winter weather, as state troopers will be monitoring those same challenging roads.
10:15 p.m.: As snow began to fall heavier, WRAL reporter Julia Sims captured it sticking to the ground.
9:45 p.m.: After a bit of a lull, snowfall began to pick up, WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said.
In Roxboro and South Hill, temperatures were below freezing and snowfall returned and likely to continue the rest of the night. With lower temperatures, roads and bridges would begin to ice up.
"Any change in our path of low pressure offshore could bring warmer air inland and limit the snowfall total in the Triangle," Maze said. "But I still think all who see snow north and west of (Raleigh) could see more than 6 inches. And that could be up to a foot."
9:30 p.m.: Residents in Youngsville reported falling snow.
9:15 p.m.: Heavier snow continued to make its way into the viewing area, WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said. Raleigh could expect significant snowfall by midnight.
8:15 p.m.: "It looks like we may be entering a little period here for the next 2 or 3 hours where the precipitation amounts will not be terribly impressive," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said. "The core of the system will get here toward 11 or 12 and continue into the first part of Saturday."
Raleigh had yet to see snow, and rain had been steady for several hours. Fayetteville should continue to see rain for quite some time, Fishel said.
Precipitation slowed in and around the Triangle, and temperatures remained above freezing, keeping roads just wet.
Fishel predicted the "sweet spot" with the most snow to be from RDU airport to the Virginia border with 6 inches to a foot possible.
7:45 p.m.: SPCA of Wake County released reminder to keep pets safe in winter weather. Bring all pets indoors and wipe off paws to prevent possible burns from salt and other materials to melt snow. If bringing a pet inside is not an option, add hay, wool or synthetic blankets to the animal's shelter. The law requires all pets to have food, drinkable water and a shelter.
Durham County library announced it will be closed Saturday and Sunday.
7:15 p.m.: Residents in northern Durham reported falling snow.
6:30 p.m.: "Temperatures at and around the Triangle are above freezing, so you don't have to worry about slippery roads just yet," Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said. "But in and around Roxboro, temperatures are at or below freezing."
Fishel said southern Wake County and the Sandhills region are the most unknown as to how much winter precipitation they should see tonight and early tomorrow. The snow that does fall should stick with below-freezing temperatures predicted early next week. Monday's possible low of 0 degrees is especially notable.
"In 130 years of weather records, it has only been at or below 0 eight times ," Fishel said. "Let's hope we don't rival the all-time low of of -9 degrees in January of 1985."
WRAL meteorologists said highs below freezing, the snow could stay around a while and cause school closings early next week.
"If it's a light, fluffy snow, there is a lot of air which is a great insulator and keeps the heat from the ground from melting it," Fishel said.
6:00 p.m.: "In the Triangle, we're seeing majority rain," WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze. "It's snowing in Roxboro, but temperatures are still above freezing, so it could take a few hours for that to stick."
Areas north and west of Raleigh should see the most snow — up to a foot in some locations. Counties in the south and east may only see sleet and rain. Maze said many southern U.S. states will see snow tonight, including Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana.
5:30 p.m.: Falling snow could be seen from the Roxboro Skycam.
5 p.m.: As the winter storm moves into central North Carolina, the ultimate outcome for Raleigh is still a matter of degrees, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.
"Just a slight shift of maybe 25 miles could mean the difference between whether you get a foot of snow or just a few inches mixes with sleet and rain," Fishel said.
The line between all snow and a wintry mix traced a diagonal across the Triangle from southwest to northeast.
4:30 p.m.: The winter storm crossing through the southeast could yield widely varying amounts of snow from one end of the Triangle to the other, WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said.
With a lot of moisture in the air and very chilly temperatures, some wintry precipitation is almost a surety, but communities to the south and east of the Triangle could see primarily rain with a bit of snow at the end while Roxboro and Rocky Mount have a greater chance for accumulations of snow.
"I would not be surprised, if it's all snow for somebody, they could see up to a foot," Maze said.
4:00 p.m.: A mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain moved into central North Carolina as day gave way to evening, the leading edge of a snowstorm expected to deliver up to 7 inches or snow.
Roanoke Rapids was seeing big, fluffy flakes fall in the 4 o'clock hour. Rocky Mount and Wilson saw a chilly rain mixed with some sleet.
"You can see on the radar precipitation is starting to fill in across the area," WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said.
3:00 p.m.: The state Department of Transportation had completed brining major roads by late afternoon Friday and joined the rest of the state in "wait-and-see" mode ahead of the anticipated snowstorm.
About 40 trucks and 150 employees worked early Friday to spread the salt-and-water mix that resists frozen precipitation, but any rain that falls before it freezes into snow could wash away that protective layer.
Authorities asked all drivers who don't have to travel this weekend to stay off the roads as snow falls and through Sunday, when freezing temperatures will harden icy surfaces.
2:00 p.m.: The salt trucks are fueled up and Triangle area schools and businesses dismissed early Friday in anticipation of a winter storm forecast to drop 5 to 7 inches of snow around the region.
WRAL meteorologist Nate Johnson suggested that people get where they want to be and settle in for the weekend.
The timing and amount of snow accumulation will vary widely across central and eastern North Carolina over the next 24 hours.