Weather

Storm will move out quickly, drop several inches of snow Sunday

Posted December 7, 2018 5:29 a.m. EST
Updated December 9, 2018 6:49 a.m. EST

— Heavy snowflakes blowing through the Triangle Sunday morning are expected to turn to freezing rain by lunchtime, according to WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner.

Gov. Roy Cooper asked residents to stay off roads Saturday night and Sunday as the state braces for a major winter storm system that is forecast to bring a wide range of snow totals. At 6:45 a.m., five inches of snow were reported in Wake Forest, and three inches were reported at RDU.

More than 100,000 power outages had been reported, and North Carolina Department of Transportation crews were working to put more than 1 million gallons of anti-icing agents on roads, including roads east of Interstate 95.

"Let me remind you that this is a snowstorm, not a snowfall," Cooper said.

According to Gardner, Fayetteville and areas east of Raleigh will barely see any snow, while the northwestern portion of the viewing area will see much more accumulation than the Triangle.

Travelers should monitor road conditions and expect them to change throughout Sunday and Monday as precipitation can include snow and rain, making roads icy.

Trees and limbs could easy fall in freezing wet conditions, Cooper said, especially after being already weakened by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.

“This weekend isn’t the time to see some winter wonderland," he said.

There are 1,500 crews from other states in North Carolina to help with power outages, Cooper said.

A winter storm warning went into effect at 1 a.m. Sunday for most counties in and west of the Triangle and remains in place until 7 p.m. Monday.

A warning means that a high-impact event or life threatening conditions are occurring or will happen within 36 hours.

Durham and Orange counties could see 6 to 10 inches of snow, and areas westward could see more than 8 inches. Raleigh through Rocky Mount could see 3 to 6 inches, and eastward areas are likely to see a wintry mix or rain.

"The ingredients are coming together for us to see snow after midnight tonight and at least the first part of the day tomorrow," WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said.

The heaviest snow is expected to fall early Sunday.

WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said there is a 35 percent chance the area could see more than 6 inches of snow. Parts of Durham could see as much as 10 inches of snow, he said.

"You're looking at significant snow accumulation with some ice possible as well," Fishel said.

As snow storm approaches Saturday, alerts span the state

Rain began in the the area between 7 p.m. and midnight Saturday, when it will begin changing into snow.

"We'll see a gradual transition from snow to a mix to rain," Maze said.

Maze said that the precipitation should transition to rain by about lunchtime Sunday in Raleigh. By about 2 p.m., only areas to the north and west of Raleigh will still be seeing snow. All precipitation should taper off in the Triangle by about 6 p.m., he said.

"This storm kind of reminds me of Christmas. You wait and wait and wait, and then it gets here and it's gone. This storm is going to be like that. Within 24 hours, it will all be in the rearview mirror," Fishel said.

Fishel said rain could thwarts the state's ability to protect roads from freezing when the snow does fall.

Fishel explained that the brine spread by road crews ahead of the storm can be washed away by rain, allowing any frozen precipitation that follows to freeze quickly, creating travel problems.

"What happens if that brushes a lot of the prep work off the roadways, and then you drop to or below freezing, and then you drop frozen precipitation on that? It will be interesting to see how that plays out," Fishel said.

North Carolina Radar

The National Weather Service is predicting more than a foot of snow for North Carolina's mountains and for cities such as Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Lexington.

Current Temperatures, DMA

"Just a slight shift either way will make a very big difference in what you end up seeing when this is all said and done," Fishel said.

What is certain is that Sunday will start out wet and cold for just about everyone, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

"You're going to want to find a nice blanket to snuggle up in over the weekend because it is going to be messy," she said.

The most likely area to get accumulating snow comes west of U.S. Highway 1, but winds gusting to 35 mph and wet roads will make travel dangerous across the Triangle.

Uptown Roxboro cam

"It's going to be above freezing right up to the point where it starts snowing. And so a lot of this may melt. It's going to depend on how heavy that snow falls to cool down the road surface so it can start accumulating on that," Fishel said.

The North Carolina Zoo announced it would be closed Sunday in the expectation that travel will be difficult in and around Asheboro.