Win­ter storm is com­ing, but sever­ity un­cer­tain

The Herald (Rock Hill) - - Local & State - BY BY STEVE LYT­TLE Spe­cial to The Her­ald

Fore­cast­ers scaled back their snow­fall pre­dic­tions Thurs­day but said they still ex­pect a win­ter storm to af­fect the Caroli­nas, in­clud­ing the Rock Hill area, later this week­end.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gists say it is still too early to know ex­actly what type of pre­cip­i­ta­tion – and how much of it – will fall in spe­cific ar­eas. It could be later Fri­day be­fore they have a good idea on the key fac­tor: the air tem­per­a­ture at var­i­ous lev­els of the at­mos­phere.

It re­mains pos­si­ble, as is typ­i­cal with win­ter storms in the Caroli­nas, that the pre­cip­i­ta­tion could fall mostly as rain in the Rock Hill area.

But as Na­tional Weather Ser­vice me­te­o­rol­o­gist Rob­bie Mun­roe said Thurs­day, “The bot­tom line is that a po­ten­tially very dan­ger­ous win­ter storm looms for much of the fore­cast area this week­end.”

The Weather Ser­vice ear­lier had de­scribed the sys­tem, which is ex­pected to reach the Rock Hill area late Satur­day, as a “once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion event” for ar­eas that ex­pe­ri­ence mostly snow and ice. But by later Thurs­day, me­te­o­rol­o­gists trimmed snow­fall pre­dic­tions, amid signs that tem­per­a­tures in mid and up­per lev­els of the at­mos­phere will be warmer than first thought.

That would mean more of the pre­cip­i­ta­tion would be in the form of sleet and freez­ing rain, or even a cold rain. The Weather Ser­vice is­sued a Win­ter Storm Watch for North Carolina coun­ties, but no South Carolina coun­ties were in­cluded ini­tially. That is be­cause, fore­cast­ers said, it ap­pears as if In­ter­state 85 could be the di­vid­ing line be­tween heav­ier frozen pre­cip­i­ta­tion and lesser amounts.

The Weather Ser­vice had called for up to eight inches of snow in north­ern York County, but fore­casts now pre­dict two inches or less. Freez­ing rain could be a big­ger prob­lem.

The Weather Ser­vice is pre­dict­ing more than a quar­ter-inch of ice ac­cu­mu­la­tion across north­ern Ch­ester, eastern York and north­ern Lan­caster coun­ties. That is the amount gen­er­ally con­sid­ered to be enough to cause wide­spread power out­ages.

Con­di­tions are ex­pected to be calm through Fri­day,

with tem­per­a­tures only reach­ing the lower 50s.

An­other surge of cold air is fore­cast to move into the area Fri­day night, set­ting the stage for the win­try weather. Fore­cast­ers say pre­cip­i­ta­tion should move into the Rock Hill area from the west late Satur­day af­ter­noon or in the evening. The heav­i­est pre­cip­i­ta­tion is ex­pected Sun­day, al­though rain, sleet and snow are fore­cast to con­tinue into Mon­day as sec­ondary low pres­sure sys­tem moves through.

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