Char­lotte fore­cast: 9 inches of snow, power out­ages, ‘treach­er­ous’ travel

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY MARK PRICE AND JOE MARUSAK

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The win­ter storm headed to­ward North Carolina could drop 9 inches of snow and ice in the Char­lotte area this week­end, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Na­tional Weather Ser­vice es­ti­mate at 5 p.m. Fri­day.

Char­lotte could see 0.13 of an inch of ice, ac­cord­ing to a map of ex­pected ice ac­cu­mu­la­tions is­sued by the NWS of­fice in Greer, S.C. Char­lotte faces lows of 31 de­grees Satur­day and Sun­day and 27 de­grees on Mon­day, NWS fore­cast­ers said Fri­day.

At 4:30 p.m. Fri­day, Gov. Roy Cooper de­clared a state of emer­gency for all 100 N.C. coun­ties. Parts of the state “are fore­cast to get up to 18 inches of snow and ice Satur­day through Mon­day, along with gusty winds,” Cooper said in a state­ment. “Nearly all of the state is ex­pected to feel some sort of im­pact from the storm.”

Duke En­ergy said Fri­day the com­pany ex­pects at least a half-mil­lion homes and busi­nesses in the Caroli­nas to lose power.

Cooper said at a Fri­day morn­ing news con­fer­ence that he al­ready ac­ti­vated emer­gency ser­vices, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Guard. The storm is likely to im­pact most of the state with a mix of snow, ice, heavy rain, freez­ing rain and po­ten­tial flood­ing, he said.

Cooper called a storm of this mag­ni­tude un­usual for the state in De­cem­ber.

“The storm comes at a time of year when North Carolini­ans are usu­ally hear­ing Christ­mas car­ols about snow and not ac­tu­ally see­ing it,” Cooper said. “But this time the real thing is headed our way. The win­ter storm is not a Christ­mas carol snow. It’s se­ri­ous, and you need to take steps now to get your fam­ily ready.”

Char­lotte road crews have been “pre­treat­ing” or “brin­ing” streets, bridges and cul­verts for two days, Liz Bab­son, di­rec­tor of the Char­lotte Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, said at a 4 p.m. Fri­day city of Char­lotte news con­fer­ence.

The city will have 37 trucks clear­ing roads 24-7 begin­ning Satur­day night, she said.

Cooper is warn­ing North Carolini­ans that cold tem­per­a­tures could set­tle in af­ter the ini­tial rain and snow pass Mon­day, cre­at­ing “treach­er­ous” roads for an ex­tended pe­riod. “Be pre­pared to stay put for a few days when the storm rolls in,” Cooper said. “It looks like there will be a wide range of snow­fall out there.”

“If you don’t have to be out on the roads, please don’t do it,” Johnny Jen­nings, deputy chief of the Char­lotte-Meck­len­burg Po­lice Depart­ment, said at the city’s Fri­day af­ter­noon news con­fer­ence.

A 100 per­cent chance of “heavy mixed pre­cip­i­ta­tion” is ex­pected Sun­day in the Char­lotte area, start­ing just af­ter mid­night, the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice fore­cast.

Snow­fall pre­dic­tions for the week­end con­tinue to be high­est north and west of Meck­len­burg County, top­ping out at 16 inches fore­cast for Mor­gan­ton, Lenoir and Burnsville, ac­cord­ing to the NWS 5 p.m. Fri­day up­date.

Hick­ory and Asheville could see 15 inches, Statesville 13, Lin­col­nton a foot, Sal­is­bury 11, Gas­to­nia 9, Mon­roe 4 and Rock Hill 2 inches, the NWS projects.

Mon­day morn­ing com­muters will likely face snow and sleet be­fore 8 a.m., then a chance of sleet from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., say NWS fore­cast­ers. The high for the day will near 38 and the chance of pre­cip­i­ta­tion is 60 per­cent, says the Fri­day morn­ing NWS fore­cast.

The Weather Chan­nel of­fers a bit of hope, how­ever, with fore­cast­ers pre­dict­ing it’s pos­si­ble the rain will quickly wash away the snow, aided by tem­per­a­tures ris­ing above freez­ing.

Ice con­tin­ues to be a ma­jor con­cern for coun­ties south and east of Char­lotte, in­clud­ing Union County, N.C., and York County, just south of the state line, ac­cord­ing to the NWS.

At 5 p.m. Fri­day, the NWS pro­jected the high­est ac­cu­mu­la­tion in the re­gion at 0.26 inches in Spar­tan­burg, S.C. Gas­to­nia and Rock Hill can ex­pect 0.13 inches and Mon­roe 0.14 inches, ac­cord­ing to the NWS Greer of­fice.

Fore­cast­ers say the storm will come in phases to the Char­lotte area, start­ing with rain Satur­day evening, chang­ing to snow af­ter mid­night, then mix­ing with freez­ing rain dur­ing the mid to late morn­ing hours Sun­day. Freez­ing rain will likely fall Sun­day af­ter­noon, and turn to sleet and maybe snow in the evening as colder tem­per­a­tures ar­rive.

The bad weather is ex­pected to be­gin as early as Satur­day morn­ing in the N.C. moun­tains and Pied­mont and Satur­day night in the S.C./Ge­or­gia moun­tains, the NWS of­fice in Greer tweeted at 4 p.m. Fri­day.

“Roads will be­come dan­ger­ous quickly!’ the NWS tweeted. “Please make sure you are tak­ing this storm se­ri­ously.”

Na­tional Weather Ser­vice pre­dic­tions have var­ied wildly in re­cent days (as much as 18 inches in Char­lotte at one point) as fore­cast­ers tried to pre­dict the line where cold high pres­sure from the east would col­lide with a moist sys­tem out of the Gulf of Mex­ico.

That line is cur­rently ex­pected to strad­dle the North Carolina-South Carolina state border , pre­dicts the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice.

At 3:45 p.m. Fri­day, the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice added Char­lotte and coun­ties sur­round­ing Meck­len­burg to its win­ter storm warn­ing that’s sched­uled to start at 7 p.m. Satur­day and con­tinue un­til noon Mon­day. The warn­ing had al­ready been posted for the N.C. moun­tains.

Wide­spread power out­ages are pos­si­ble for ex­tended pe­ri­ods dur­ing and im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the storm, the NWS warns.

“Travel could be very dif­fi­cult to im­pos­si­ble,” says the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice briefing. “Road con­di­tions could de­te­ri­o­rate as early as Satur­day evening, with high­way travel con­tin­u­ing to be im­pacted through early next week. Vis­i­bil­ity may drop to less than a half mile dur­ing pe­ri­ods of heavy snow.”

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