Warmth will yield to cold rain, maybe snow this weekend

Posted February 27, 2009 10:03 a.m. EST
Updated February 28, 2009 6:33 a.m. EST

— Friday slipped away with a springlike high 15 degrees above normal and a light rain drizzling down.

By Monday, residents of central North Carolina could be waking up to snow covering the ground.

"How in the heck can we be talking about snow when we got up to 72 (degrees) today?" WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel asked. But, he added, "There's plenty of chilly air not too far away."

Temperatures will take their first plunge Saturday. After a mild start in the 50s, a cold front will arrive in the early morning, start dumping rain and drive temperatures into the low 30s overnight.

"That's going to be the beginning of a good soaking," Fishel said. The "steady, all-day rain" could drop totals of 1 to 2 inches, he said.

After a drier spell Saturday night, a blast of cold air will arrive Sunday morning, bringing thicker clouds and more rain. Then, when temperatures drop in the evening, it's possible snowflakes will start falling.

"It is a definite possibility. All the models show snow," WRAL Meteorologist Mike Maze said. "The big question is really how much we are going to see. It could be as little as a couple inches or as much as 10 inches."

The Triangle's snowfall chances rest on the behavior of an upper-level low-pressure system.

Sunday morning, the low will be strong and above Mississippi and Alabama. From that point, though, computer models differ on what it will do.

If it stays strong and moves southeast of the Triangle, "There will be a prolonged snow event. This could turn out to be a really, really big event," Fishel said.

If the low weakens, that'll open up a trough, and the low will go to the west of central North Carolina. In that scenario, "We might pick up an inch or two, but it wouldn't be a big event," Fishel said.

Any snowfall that develops will last overnight and into Monday morning.

As the forecast for snow accumulation firms up this weekend, Fishel had some advice for school children looking for a day off:

"Do your homework."