Published: 2017-01-06 05:56:00
Updated: 2018-07-13 14:04:32
Posted January 6, 2017 5:56 a.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 2:04 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.
Durham Public Schools, Orange County Schools, Chapel Hill-Carborro City Schools, Franklin County Schools and Chatham County Schools announced they would dismiss students two hours early before the storm that prompted Gov. Roy Cooper to declare a State of Emergency for all 100 North Carolina counties.
The Triangle is looking at significant amounts of snow, but counties to the north and east of Raleigh could get even more, and once that snow falls, it could be here for a while.
"It looks like once we get below freezing this evening then temperatures stay below freezing until Tuesday," said WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner. "That's why I'm saying whatever falls here is going to stick around for a while. Roads are going to be messy for several days."
Over Thursday night, the forecast models pushed the start of precipitation earlier in the day. Some of the earliest precipitation could begin after lunchtime and in the early afternoon, but it will still be too warm to fall as snow.
Cooper said the North Carolina Department of Transportation has 1,900 trucks ready to be deployed across the state. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol would also be ready to respond to problem areas, though Cooper urged people to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.
"We are prepared to make sure that people are safe," Cooper said in a Friday morning press conference. "That is the No. 1 thing."
As the temperatures start to drop overnight, the rain will change to snow, especially in the Triangle area and counties to the north. Road conditions won't start to deteriorate until around 10 p.m. or midnight, Gardner said, when that change happens.
Despite the flip around the Triangle, though, counties in the south might not see the same switch to snow. The warmer low pressure system sitting off shore will push back against the cold air moving in from the north.
Where the two forces meet, Gardner said, will form a line that will determine how much snow falls: Points to the north of the line could see up to 9 inches of snow, while counties to the south might only get 1 or 2 inches.
"It's a battle between the two," Gardner said.
It's happening. We can see the whites of its eyes. A significant, impactful winter storm gets going in earnest this evening. (2/)— Nate Johnson (@nsj) January 6, 2017
Winter weather advisories still blanket most counties in central and eastern North Carolina. A handful of schools, including Wake County Public Schools and Durham Public Schools, already canceled after-school and weekend activities.
Likewise, organizers of Gov. Roy Cooper's inauguration planned for Saturday canceled the event due to the potential for snow. The inauguration parade was canceled earlier in the week, and it's unclear when the events will be rescheduled.
Officials at Raleigh-Durham International Airport said Friday that crews will be working 12-hour shifts in an effort to keep one runway open.
Temperatures on Saturday will drop to a high of 28, but wind chills will make the air feel even more biting. The real cold will arrive on Sunday and Monday when the low temperature will be 9 and 0 degrees, respectively.