Wintry Mix Might Jinx Tuesday Morning Commute

Posted January 21, 2008 7:50 a.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2008 5:01 p.m. EST

— Cold temperatures that greeted early morning risers on Monday appear to be here to stay, while freezing rain might disrupt the commute on Tuesday morning, WRAL Meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner predicted.

Temperatures dropped into the teens and low 20s across Central and Eastern North Carolina shortly before sunrise Monday. At 7 a.m., Raleigh had 17 degrees and Chapel Hill 16, while Rocky Mount and Fayetteville checked in at 19 degrees.

Roxboro and Louisburg bottomed out at 12 degrees, but Lumberton topped out the charts with a chilly 22 degrees.

Skies will remain clear Monday, but "even with all that sunshine, it's not going to warm things up for us," Gardner said. "Here we are at noon with most temperatures below freezing, an incredible air mass out there."

Temperatures will struggle to reach a high of 39 degrees in the afternoon and then dip into the low 20s again overnight. A system from the south will also roll in early hours Tuesday, bringing moisture with it.

"With temperatures this cold and a little precipitation early tomorrow morning, you see we could have some issues," Gardner said.

Whether the Triangle sees mostly rain or freezing depends on timing, Gardner said. If the moisture arrives closer to 6 a.m., the precipitation will be frozen. If the moisture materializes closer to 10 a.m., warmer temperatures will keep lots of frozen liquid from forming.

"Most likely what that is going to be is freezing rain, unfortunately," Gardner said "The main problem it is most likely to cause for tomorrow morning is some slick spots on the road.

"The freezing rain will be spotty, so we're not anticipating the kind of accumulations that knock down power lines or make a significant ice storm at all."

Only a little freezing rain, though, Gardner warned, can create "big road impact."

On Dec. 7, 2007, wet snow, flurries and freezing rain put a light glaze on bridges and highways throughout the Triangle. That was enough to cause one fatality and dozens of wrecks and shut down portions of Interstates 40 and 85; U.S. Highways 1, 70 and 401; and Falls of the Neuse Road – slowing the commute to crawl.

The wintry precipitation will turn to rain by lunchtime Tuesday.

The rest of the week will bring "decreasing clouds, but no increase in the temperatures," Gardner said.

On Friday and Saturday, early morning risers might, again, be greeted by temperatures in the teens.