Weather

Large winter storm on its way to N.C.

Posted January 29, 2010 5:19 a.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2010 7:13 p.m. EST

— Northwesterly winds have chilled down North Carolina ahead of a large winter storm. From late Friday, snow, sleet and freezing rain could fall for as long as 24 hours across most of the state.

"Everybody's going to get part of this, and it's going to be significant wherever you go," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

A is in effect for most of the state from 6 p.m. Friday until midnight Saturday.

Echoes of snow aloft were appearing on radar early Friday evening, but flakes were evaporating before hitting the ground. The snow will most likely going to start to falling between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., moving from west to east.

"It'll pick up after that and should last until midnight Saturday," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. "That's why we're anticipating so much snow."

Warm air aloft will cause snow to turn over to sleet sometime Saturday morning. That will happen earliest in Fayetteville and the Sandhills, leading to greater ice accumulations there.

"Exactly where and when that transition occurs is going to go a long way to determining what you get on the ground tomorrow morning," he said.

Fishel outlined the most likely scenario: the most snow – 10 to 15 inches – falling around Roxboro and the Virginia border area.

The Triangle and areas just east and west of it will see a smaller but still significant snowfall accumulation. Between 6 and 9 inches is possible. "It might change over to sleet for a time, so the accumulations might not be as great," Gardner said.

A stretch of North Carolina, stretching from Southern Pines through Fayetteville to Goldsboro, could see 2 to 5 inches of snow – but also between a half-inch and three-quarters an inch of ice.

"(That) would really knock out power for most folks," Gardner said. "You tend to start to see power outages, trees falling at a quarter of an inch of ice. ... That is not a good situation at all."

"Not to say that we won't have some freezing rain and power outages in the Triangle, but the situation may be worse the farther south you go," she added.

The precipitation will taper off by early afternoon, but linger as a light freezing drizzle in the afternoon. It will turn back into light snow Saturday night before finally ending around midnight.

Whatever falls is likely to stick around for some time: Temperatures will stay in the high 20s Saturday, crash into the teens overnight and won't rise above freezing Sunday. Monday will see a high in the low 40s.