Snow makes last push through region
Posted February 16, 2013 8:02 a.m. EST
Updated February 17, 2013 12:29 a.m. EST
WHAT: Snow flurries fall across central North Carolina Saturday as a front moves in from the north and west and allows cold air back into the area.
WHEN: Flakes began falling as early as 7 a.m. in western parts of the Triangle, and snow showers could continue off and on throughout the afternoon. The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for much of the area until 4 a.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Spots in Person, Orange, Durham, Chatham and Moore counties could see heavier accumulations thanks to earlier snowfall. Wake County and spots east will likely see less accumulation, but chances for snowfall will gradually increase throughout the day.
11:30 p.m. update: Snow is falling heavily in Raleigh as the system, which moved east earlier in the evening, has pivoted back west.
10 p.m. update: Snow has lingered longer than expected in some areas, especially east of Raleigh.
"The moisture is actually pivoting back to the west now," WRAL Chief Meteorolgist Greg Fishel said. "It's now snowing in and around Roxboro. If you're in Wake Forest, it may start to come down hard."
It may begin snowing again in Durham and even Raleigh, he said.
"This system continues to be full of surprises," Fishel said.
The National Weather Service has issued a black ice advisory for most areas through 10 a.m. Sunday, when any lingering ice should melt.
7:30 p.m. update: Snow that fell steadily across the Triangle for hours on Saturday is coming to a quick end.
A second band of snow expected to sweep in from Charlotte has fizzled out, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said. That means no more snow is on its way.
"Snow is over in Durham and Chapel Hill, except for a few leftover flurries," he said. "It will be ending in Wake County within the hour."
After that last flake falls, he said, what matters is "whether the water evaporates off the roads or freezes."
Precipitation remaining on the roadways increases the potential for black ice overnight and into Sunday morning.
"Anything wet that has fallen today will freeze," WRAL meteorologist Aimee Wilmoth said.
Regional temperatures will dip into the 20s overnight and will hover around freezing by 7 a.m., increasing the potential for slick roadways. The melting process won't start until about 9 a.m.
Authorities are encouraging motorists to use caution and slow down.
5 p.m. update: Snowfall around the Triangle has hit a lull, but more is on the way, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.
"There's a disturbance in the upper atmosphere that has generated thundersnow in the Charlotte area," he said. "That disturbance will enhance the snowfall in the Triangle area, probably between 7 and 9 p.m."
As that band of snow moves into the region, some spots could pick up another inch or two.
The greatest accumulation measured so far today has been 2.5 inches in Buies Creek. Fishel said any accumulation has been on grass or secondary, interior roadways. Along main roads, snow is sticking briefly and melting, he said.
The State Highway Patrol in Raleigh said there were no significant increases in accidents due to weather. Meanwhile, state Department of Transportation officials said crews will be reporting for duty about 6 p.m. to head out with salt and sand trucks.
About 20 trucks will be dispatched initially, officials said, and more will be added if necessary.
2:00 p.m. update: Snow continues to advance through the Triangle from west to east, filling in across parts of Wake, Franklin, Nash, Wilson, Wayne and Johnston counties. Most areas have seen anywhere from a trace to 2 inches of snow thus far, with areas in the western part of the viewing area seeing the highest totals.
Road conditions have not been an issue as of yet, but that could change during the afternoon as temperatures continue to fall to near freezing.
12:30 p.m. update: Steady snow continues to fall in many spots across the central part of the state. Areas in the western part of the Triangle have seen 1 to 2 inches in spots, while spots in Wake County eastward have seen between a trace and 1 inch.
Rain showers are extending eastward toward the Interstate 95 corridor, and snow has started falling parts of eastern Wake County and Johnston County. Snow showers will continue to slowly trek eastward throughout the afternoon.
11 a.m. update: Steady snow is falling across a good portion of central North Carolina, with the western Triangle seeing the heaviest totals. Areas that started seeing snow early Saturday could end up with 2 to 3 inches by the time precipitation comes to a close, while areas that saw more rain will likely see a trace to 1 inch.
"Some folks could get in little pockets of snow showers, and people a few miles away could see all rain until later in the day," WRAL meteorologist Mike Moss said. "This is a hard one to pin down because parts of the area are seeing very different things, and that will continue throughout the day."
No major issues have been reported on area roadways, but slick spots could develop during the late morning and afternoon as temperatures continue to fall through the mid-30s to near freezing.
9 a.m. update: Precipitation associated with an approaching cold front advanced into the Triangle early Saturday, falling as rain in some spots and snow in others.
Snow flurries began falling in western Triangle counties as early as 7:30 a.m., coming down heavily in parts of Person, Orange, Durham, Chatham and Moore counties at times. Spots in western Wake County began seeing flurries about 9:45 a.m.
Spots in the eastern part of the Triangle were seeing rain showers or mixed precipitation.
Chances for snow will gradually increase throughout the day as temperatures continue to dip into the 30s. Temperatures were in the mid-30s across much of the area at 9:30 a.m., and they will continue to dip throughout the day as cold air filters into the region from the north and west.
Because the snow arrived earlier than expected in the western parts of the Triangle, the National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for Alamance, Chatham, Lee, Moore and Orange counties from 9:20 a.m. Saturday until 4 a.m. Sunday.
Other counties in the Triangle will be under an advisory beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday, including Wake, Johnston, Durham, Person, Granville, Vance, Warren, Halifax, Franklin, Nash, Edgecombe, Wilson, Harnett, Wayne, Scotland, Hoke, Cumberland and Sampson counties.
The snow that falls early in the day Saturday shouldn't cause serious issues on area roadways, but as temperatures fall during the afternoon, slick spots could develop, especially on bridges and overpasses. Overnight, any remaining snow or water on the roadways will freeze.
"Temperatures here at the ground could easily be above freezing during much, if not this entire event, which would nullify the chance of it causing any road problems during the day," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said. "Saturday night, with the leftover water on the streets and temperatures going down into the 20s ... that really may be the bigger issue with this system, not so much the snow accumulation."
Because rain started to fall before any snow, state and local transportation officials said they didn't send out trucks to brine the roads ahead of time. However, spreader operators will be on standby Saturday, in case the weather forecast worsens.
Trooper Scott Baker with the North Carolina Highway Patrol said he hopes not to see a repeat of the wintry mix that caused slippery roads last month, leading to hundreds of accidents.
"You have more calls than you have troopers," Baker said. "We handle the most serious calls we can."
Todd McGowan, owner of Haddock Collision Center in Cary, said the icy roads on Jan. 25 meant an uptick in business at his garage.
"I would probably guess 300 (damaged vehicles) directly attributable to that ice storm," he said.
The Highway Patrol is urging drivers to stay off the roads if conditions get slick.
"Stay inside," Baker said. "If you do go out, exercise caution."
Highs Sunday will climb into the low 40s under abundant sunshine.
Average temperatures will return early next week, with daytime highs topping out in the low 50s for most of the work week.