Weather

Thursday Commute May be Slippery; Schools Delaying Classes

Posted January 16, 2008 5:51 a.m. EST
Updated January 16, 2008 11:41 p.m. EST

— The expected wintry mix has already caused many Triangle area schools to delay classes. Wake, Johnston, Durham, Warren and Harnett counties will open two hours late Thursday in anticipation of slippery roads in the morning.

N.C. State University will open at 10 a.m. For a complete list of delays and closings, check the WRAL closing list.

The National Weather Service in Raleigh has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for the Triangle from 4 a.m. to noon Thursday. A Winter Storm Watch is in effect for most of the counties west of the Triangle, including Alamance.

The weather service defines an advisory as meaning there likely will be conditions that will inconvenience people but that are not expected to be serious.

Periods of snow, sleet and freezing rain are expected to cause travel difficulties Thursday morning. Drivers should be prepared for slippery roads and limited visibility. Bridges and overpasses pose the greatest risk for icing because cold air surrounds them.

City of Raleigh crews will be on standby into Thursday morning to treat roads if necessary. Crews spent Wednesday preparing spreaders and plows.

Salt brine has already been applied to some heavily traveled roads and highways.

Snow began falling late Wednesday afternoon in Atlanta, parts of northern Alabama and southern Tennessee. As of 9:30 p.m., light snow was being reported in Andrews and Ashville in North Carolina.

"Here in the Raleigh area, it does look like we will see a period of snow, but we do think it will be turning over to rain during the morning rush hour and just a cold rain after that," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said. "I really don't see this as being a big freezing rain or ice threat across the area at all."

The state still needs a lot of rain, so the anticipated precipitation should help drought conditions. Raleigh's rainfall deficit was 9.12 inches on Wednesday.

"This should be a helpful event,” Fishel said. “Not a drought-buster, but at least something, as we have a chance to pick up a half or three-quarters of an inch of rain."

Surface temperatures should slowly warm above freezing by late morning Thursday, then into the mid 30s in the afternoon.

Moisture moving north from the Gulf of Mexico into Texas and Louisiana was expected to track into North Carolina by Thursday morning. Along the way, colder temperatures will turn the rain into the frozen precipitation that will fall on Georgia, South Carolina and western North Carolina.

Only rain, though – not a wintry mix – will be coming down for the evening commute Thursday, meaning the Triangle could get a good soaking from the storm.

The storm system will pull out through the evening, leaving mostly cloudy skies by 8 p.m.

Predicting the upcoming storm has been tough, WRAL Meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

“It frustrates us. I know it frustrates a lot of folks who know that we can’t pinpoint it,” she said. “All we can do is say here’s likely what’s going to happen.”

Residents should bundle up this week as cold temperatures and breezy conditions persist into the weekend. Sunday is expected to have a high of 34 degrees and an overnight low of 14 for Monday morning.

Got great photos of winter weather? Let the world see them on WRAL.com. Click here to submit photos. And tell us about the weather conditions where you live. Post your observations Thursday morning in the Comments area below.

WRAL News coverage will start a half-hour early at 4:30 a.m. Thursday. WRAL also will air hourly forecast updates starting at 12 a.m.