Weather

Snow in forecast for Christmas Day

Posted December 23, 2010 7:09 a.m. EST
Updated December 23, 2010 11:17 p.m. EST

— A storm moving in from the west is gathering steam and gathering data as it barrels its way east and could result in a white Christmas for North Carolina, WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said.

The low-pressure system making its way across the United States is forecast to combine with a low-pressure system tracking up the North Carolina coast on Saturday and Sunday. If that union takes place close to the Carolina coast, the Triangle and areas to the east could see significant amounts of snow.

If the low moves south and east of the coast, coastal and far eastern North Carolina will see the majority of any snowfall. 

"Everybody should see some light snow on Saturday," Maze said. "On Sunday, the part of the state along and east of Interstate 95 has the greatest potential to see accumulation."

He pointed out that forecasters consider multiple models and while all the models were forecasting snow for the Triangle Saturday and Sunday, the amounts are far from certain.

"We're talking about a 30 percent probability of one inch or greater in the Sandhills, Raleigh and the rest of central North Carolina," Maze said.

The storm system, which formed over the Pacific Ocean and brought heavy flooding in southern California was moving faster Thursday, gaining the speed that could push it further offshore once it reaches the east cost, Maze said.

"There are fewer weather balloons and therefore less data over the Pacific," Maze said. "Now that the storm is over land, the models have more weather balloons to query, more data to crunch and a better idea of what the storm really is."

Snow is likely to begin falling on the evening of Christmas Day and continue into the night. The snowfall could last into Sunday morning, and temperatures might not get above freezing that day.

"It looks like we'll see flurries Sunday in Raleigh," Maze said, "but not significant accumulation."

Roads readied for holiday travel

State Department of Transportation crews began laying brine, which is an anti-icing mixture of salt and water, on highways and major four-lane roads Thursday. Road crews in local towns and cities have also started pre-treating roads so that crews can spend Christmas Day with their families.

The DOT says without rain to wash it away, the brine will last up to 72 hours.  

State emergency management officials said they are monitoring the storm system and taking precautions in case weather becomes an issue over the weekend.

"Now we're just kind of sitting back, waiting, watching the forecast," said Joseph Turner of NCDOT. "We'll have everybody ready when it comes. Our crews will be ready to move the snow when it starts happening."

“We know many people will be traveling for the holidays, and we want everyone to be prepared and especially careful,” state Emergency Management Director Doug Hoell said in a statement. “Now is the time to watch those weather forecasts and update those emergency supplies kits for your home and car.”

Hoell added that holiday travelers should plan on reaching their destination by Saturday afternoon, then make plans to stay put for a few days, if needed.

Some of those planning a holiday weekend in Raleigh hit the stores Thursday to stock up on ice melt and firewood. 

Chris Fisher was preparing with a purchase of ice melt. A white Christmas, he said, would be "magical."

The state Highway Patrol will also have additional troopers on call for the weekend, and the state Division of Emergency Management was coordinating with local emergency agencies across the state.