Snowflakes expected Saturday in Charlotte region
Feb 15, 2013 (The Charlotte Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A fast-moving low pressure system that hadn't been expected to strengthen until after moving off the Carolinas coast Saturday night is now forecast to bring a bit of snow to the Charlotte region Saturday afternoon and evening.
But as is typical for Carolinas winter storms, there is a wide difference of opinion on how much snow will fall.
In addition, meteorologists say ground temperatures will be above freezing, so slippery road conditions are not expected.
But they say there could be enough snow to coat grassy surfaces for a while. And, they add, there's a chance the forecast might be underestimating the snow potential -- especially in the eastern third of North Carolina.
All of that seems foreign today, with temperatures near 60 degrees early Friday afternoon in Charlotte. But big changes are in the offing.
A strong cold front will begin moving into the Carolinas on Friday night, with much chillier temperatures sweeping into northern North Carolina.
On Saturday, an upper-level low pressure system will push across the Gulf of Mexico into the Southeast. At the same time, the cold air will be filtering southward into the Charlotte area.
The advancing low pressure system and the arrival of colder air will provide what National Weather Service meteorologist Jake Wimberley described as "quite an interesting forecast."
Earlier this week, computer models predicted the system would be moisture-starved as it crossed the Carolinas and would not strengthen until moving offshore. But during the past 24 hours, one of the models that has been accurate in recent weeks has increased the precipitation forecast for the Piedmont and eastward.
The most recent forecast from that model, issued at noon, showed enough precipitation for accumulating snow in the Charlotte region.
Brad Panovich, chief meteorologist at WCNC-TV, the Observer's news partner, says he thinks snowfall in Charlotte will range from a half-inch to possibly 1 1/2 inches, mostly on grassy surfaces. Friday's 60-degree temperatures will keep the ground relatively warm, causing snow to melt on roadways.
However, meteorologists note, a few of the models still show little or no snow for the Charlotte region.
The precipitation, in the form of showers, is expected to begin as rain early Saturday afternoon, then mix with snow as the afternoon progresses. By late afternoon, Wimberley says, the atmosphere will be cold enough for snow.
Temperatures at ground level will still be in the upper 30s to near 40 degrees, which will prevent any significant accumulations.
The heaviest precipitation is expected to fall in eastern North Carolina. The National Weather Service office in Raleigh says accumulations of 1 inch are possible along and east of the U.S. 1 corridor, including Raleigh, Greenville and Wilmington.
Precipitation is expected to end later Saturday evening, and temperatures will be quite cold for the rest of the weekend.
Sunday morning lows will be in the lower 20s, and even colder if skies clear. Sunshine will return Sunday, but highs are only predicted to reach the lower 40s.
Monday's temperatures will be about 10 degrees warmer.
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