Johnston County and other parts of central and eastern North Carolina are under a winter weather advisory as the likelihood of snow grows, the National Weather Service in Raleigh said Tuesday afternoon.
“Significant snowfall is possible Wednesday afternoon and night” in the watch area, the weather service said. “Total snow accumulations of 1 to 3 inches are possible.”
The Weather Channel named the storm “Winter Storm Grayson.”
Wednesday morning and evening commutes are expected to be clear in the Triangle area, with clouds gathering and snow beginning in later in the evening, the weather service said late Tuesday afternoon.
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The winter weather advisory is in effect for areas in central and eastern North Carolina until Thursday morning.
Forecast models became more consistent on Tuesday, leading to increased confidence of snow over eastern North Carolina beginning as early as Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning. Most of the precipitation expected will fall as snow, the weather service said, though that’s “rare for this part of the world.” What’s still uncertain, however, is how far west the snow will extend.
Much of eastern North Carolina was under a winter storm warning Tuesday evening through Thursday, with the possibility of heavy snow of up to 5 inches. A winter storm warning means that there’s high confidence that a winter storm will produce heavy snow, sleet or freezing rain, causing significant impacts.
A late Tuesday afternoon update from the weather service predicted about an inch of snow for the Wake County area and as much as 2 inches for much of Johnston County.
The overall forecast is for the most significant snow from Interstate 95 to the coast, ABC11 meteorologist Steve Stewart said. Most of that area is included in the watch, including Cumberland, Edgecombe, New Hanover, Pitt, Sampson, Wilson and Wayne counties.
Roads and schools
Despite being just outside the watch zone, Wake County roads, bridges and overpasses will be brined from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday.
“Initial concentration will be the southern and southeastern parts of Wake County as that is where weather reports indicate there could be the most impact,” N.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Abbott said. “If the forecast starts trending to the west, then they will be out for the rest of the county on Wednesday.”
The extremely cold temperatures mean any precipitation that falls could be more difficult to clear from the roads. Brine can only be applied when temperatures are above 20 degrees, as the salt-water brine solution can freeze onto the roadways and create icy conditions when temperatures are in the teens. Extreme cold in the evening and overnight also limits the ability of salt to melt snow and ice on roadways. Crews will need to wait for the rising temperature during the daytime to clear any ice.
“These extreme cold temperatures can be life-threatening if people lose power and heat,” said N.C. Emergency Management director Mike Sprayberry. “Many counties are ready with plans for warming centers, should they be needed. People should make sure they are ready for the cold, and should stay off the roads while conditions are dangerous.”
Bitter cold prompted most school districts in the Triangle to delay the start of school Tuesday morning. Wake County school officials announced Monday afternoon that classes would start two hours late on Tuesday because they would need extra time to get buses ready after they were idle for winter break. Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Durham, Chatham, Orange, Harnett, Granville and Lee county schools also announced two-hour delays.
Though it’s snow, and not ice, expected across most of eastern and central North Carolina, snow on roadways and bridges can melt as vehicles travel over it and refreeze, creating a glaze of ice, according to the weather service.
“Snowfall amounts can be very hard to predict in North Carolina, as we saw in early December in western North Carolina,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a news release on Tuesday. “A small change in a storm’s track can make a big difference in how much snow falls and where. That’s why we’re making sure North Carolina is prepared for whatever this storm could bring, and why I encourage families and businesses to get ready.”
Before and after there is any chance of snow, however, cold is the dominant weather feature, as Arctic air continues to move into the area, causing “much below normal temps,” the weather service said, with the worst of the cold Thursday night through Saturday.
“Northerly winds will continue to funnel arctic air into the region this morning,” the weather service said. “Temperatures this morning will be in the teens, with single digits possible in the normally colder locations. An occasional northerly wind will push wind chills down to around zero to five above.”
That arctic air is expected to extend into North Carolina through the rest of the week. Low pressure will track off the Carolina coast on Wednesday through Wednesday night, bringing a threat of wintry precipitation to the eastern part of the state, according to the weather service.
A wind chill advisory all the way from Winston-Salem to the coast and covered almost all counties in that swath of the state from Virginia to South Carolina but was allowed to expire late Tuesday morning as temperatures began to warm and gusts diminished. While another frigid night was expected Tuesday night with lows on the low to mid teens, a lack of wind will keep the wind chill elevated overnight.
Wind chills across North Carolina on Tuesday morning dipped into the single digits, as low as 2 degrees on Fort Bragg and 1 degree in High Point, according to the weather service.
As cold as it’s going to be this week, none of the forecast lows are expected to set any records. Those range from 6 to 9 degrees this week.
How to prepare
▪ Dress warmly for the cold. Wear multiple layers of thin clothing instead of a single layer of thick clothing.
▪ Always keep at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food in your home.
▪ Keep alternative heating sources and fire extinguishers on hand. Be sure your family knows how to use them.
▪ Properly vent kerosene heaters and keep electric generators outside and away from open windows or doors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
▪ Do not burn charcoal or use a grill indoors.
▪ Use a NOAA Weather Radio or monitor local news media for changing weather conditions.
▪ Keep fresh batteries on hand for weather radios and flashlights.
▪ If your pipes are uninsulated, keep faucets open to a slow drip to prevent pipes from freezing.
▪ Keep pets inside, out of the cold.
▪ Download the ReadyNC app for more winter weather preparedness information.
▪ Store an emergency kit in your vehicle. Include a windshield scraper, jumper cables, tow chain, sand/salt, blankets, flashlight, first aid kit and road map.
▪ Keep your cell phone charged.
▪ Monitor fuel levels.
▪ Clear your windshield and other windows of snow and ice before traveling.
▪ Use headlamps and windshield wipers.
▪ Plan for delays and longer than usual travel times.
▪ Increase your following distance.
▪ Decrease your speed.
▪ Choose several routes as some roadways may be closed.
▪ Share your travel plans/routes with others.
▪ Always be aware of your location in case you become stranded.
▪ If your vehicle becomes disabled, stay inside the vehicle until assistance arrives.
▪ Contact 911 or *HP in emergency situations only. Visit DriveNC.gov for roadway conditions.