Weather

White Christmas likely as low-pressure system sweeps country

Posted December 22, 2010 12:36 p.m. EST
Updated December 22, 2010 11:19 p.m. EST

— Dreaming of a white Christmas? There’s a chance that this could be the year.

A low-pressure system causing flooding and mudslides in Southern California is forecast to make its way across the United States to North Carolina on Saturday and Sunday, bringing the possibility of wintry weather.

If that happens, it could be the first time since 1947 that it has snowed in the Triangle on Christmas, according to the National Weather Service.

"It's not set in stone, not something to hang our hats on yet, but there is great potential we're going to see some white stuff this weekend,” said WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze.

Computer models Wednesday show that the storm system is expected to weaken as it approaches the state and intensify again once it gets off the North Carolina-South Carolina coast around Sunday morning.

What happens next depends on the track the storm takes.

One scenario is that the system will stay close to the coast.

"If that's the case, we're talking about snowfall making its way farther to the west and that means more snow, impacting more people," Maze said. 

The other possibility is that the storm will build farther offshore.

“That means less snow, impacting fewer people, but still, here in central North Carolina, we could see a good dose of snow," Maze said.

The areas with the greatest potential of snowfall are in the central and eastern part of the state, including Wake, Durham, Orange, Johnston, Sampson, Wayne, Wilson, Nash, Edgecombe, Pitt, Hoke, Cumberland, Lee and Moore counties.

“It’s still too early to talk about totals, but the one thing I can tell you is that it is looking more promising that we will see snow this weekend,” he added.

Emergency management crews, meanwhile, said Wednesday that they are monitoring the storm system and taking precautions, in case weather becomes an issue over the weekend.

Road crews with the North Carolina Department of Transportation will begin spreading a salt-brine solution on major interstates and roads, beginning Thursday.

The State Highway Patrol will also have additional troopers on call for the weekend, and the state Division of Emergency Management was coordinating with local emergency agencies across the state.

“We know many people will be traveling for the holidays, and we want everyone to be prepared and especially careful,” state Emergency Management Director Doug Hoell said in a statement. “Now is the time to watch those weather forecasts and update those emergency supplies kits for your home and car.”

Hoell added that holiday travelers should plan on reaching their destination by Saturday afternoon, then make plans to stay put for a few days, if needed.

High temperatures are forecast to be in the upper 40s Wednesday through Friday before dropping to the mid- to upper 30s on Saturday and Sunday. Wind chills, however, will make the temperatures feel more like the 30s.

Lows are expected to be at or below freezing each day.

The system responsible for North Carolina’s possible winter weather has already dropped a record amount of rain in California since last week.

Some locations in Southern California have received more than 12 inches of rain – the most in one storm since 2005.

The flooding and mudslides have prompted emergency officials there to evacuate thousands of homes.