Weather

Cold, wind follow 'big, fat, fluffy' flakes

Posted November 21, 2008 5:13 a.m. EST
Updated November 22, 2008 7:22 a.m. EST

— Cold air blasted back in and some "big, fat, fluffy flakes" fell early Friday, but central North Carolina is also under a burn warning, WRAL Meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

Four-tenths of an inch of snow fell at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, setting a record for the day.

More snowbursts might occur throughout the day, Gardner said. A WRAL viewer reported one in north Raleigh around noon.

Cumulus clouds began forming, and some activity was pushing in from the Virginia border.

"It's not completely over yet," Gardner said. "Any one of those clouds could produce a little snow or rain or a little snow-rain mix."

Send and view pictures of the snow.

Cold and wind became the top story after the morning snow. Temperatures barely warmed up into the low 40s, and strong winds blew, gusting up to 25 mph.

"Because of the cold air spilling in, we're going to have a rough time warming up," Gardner said. The wind chill kept things even colder, making the air feel like it was in the low 30s or high 20s in some places.

The wind will also drop humidity levels rapidly and could fuel wildfires. The National Weather Service advised residents in central North Carolina to avoid burning leaves.

Overnight, record lows will be possible, creating a bitter-cold outlook for the Raleigh Christmas parade. The morning will start out in the low 20s and get to around 30 degrees by the start of the parade.

Temperatures on Friday and Saturday will be about 20 degrees lower than normal, Gardner said.

Morning snow falls across state

The arrival of a cold front and an upper-level disturbance at the same time made the snow early Friday.

"We've got the colder air coming in as the precipitation comes in. ... It's just working out perfectly this morning," Gardner said.

The snow band entered Caswell County around midnight and then slowly moved east and south in the day's early hours. For a while, the last few tendrils of the band trailed over Wake County, then the band pushed east of Interstate 95.

"We've got a nice little swath of snow. I wouldn't even call it flurries; I'd call it snow showers," Gardner said.

WRAL viewers reported that snow started falling steadily around 2:30 a.m. and covered the ground in northern Person County, Roanoke Rapids and Mebane.

Snow showers were also seen in Cary, Raleigh, Durham, Rolesville, Tarboro and in Johnston and Granville counties. Radar showed snow falling as far south as Fayetteville, Southern Pines and Sampson County.

The heaviest snow in central portions of the state fell north and west of a line from Henderson to Durham to Asheboro. Around Winston-Salem, along Interstate 40, about half-an-inch fell.

"Other places in our viewing area got just a trace, and it melted very quickly," Gardner said.

In mountains, police responded to dozens of wrecks during the surprise snowfall.

A truck jackknifed and rescue crews took the driver to a hospital. Police said the truck spilled some diesel fuel, but not enough to be considered dangerous.

A stretch of Interstate 40 near the Buncombe-Haywood county line was closed and traffic detoured while crews spread salt on the roadway.

Schools in Asheville and other mountain counties closed for the day. Students in Guilford and Forsyth counties got a two-hour delay.

Colder, wetter winter ahead

Forecasters say winter in North Carolina could be wetter and colder than the past few seasons, despite a Southern outlook for drier and warmer conditions.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Orrock said Thursday that the state will likely see a decrease in global weather patterns that have made past winters warmer and drier.

Orrock said forecasters examined weather records for past years when conditions were similar to the start of this winter. He said that in those years, the temperatures were colder and there was more precipitation.

He said the last active winter was in 2004, when about 2 feet of snow fell in Asheboro.

The National Weather Service on Thursday released its annual national winter weather outlook for December through February.