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Charlotte Area News

Up To 0.4 Inches Of Ice Forecast For Charlotte Region In Winter Storm

Robert Lahser / Charlotte Observer

The Charlotte region could see ice levels approach half an inch during Monday’s winter storm, a National Weather Service meteorologist said, threatening to cause widespread power outages and disrupt traffic, businesses and schools from the North Carolina mountains to Upstate South Carolina.

“It looks like less snow and more ice now,” said meteorologist Andrew Kimball.

Snow projections for north Mecklenburg have decreased from up to 2.5 inches to up to 1.5 inches. South Mecklenburg County is expected to see a “dusting or so” of snow, said Kimball.

Meanwhile, ice projections have increased from as low as 0.16 inches in north Mecklenburg County to up to 0.4 inches for most of the county.

Residents should report icy road conditions by calling CharMeck311. Also, reports of routine icing on city streets can be called in to 704-336-3200. Actual emergencies and accidents should be reported to 911. To report a power outage, call 1-800-PowerOn.

  The storm could bring substantial accumulation of ice, meteorologists said, which could cause power outages if a quarter-inch or more builds up on trees and power lines.

“When you’re heading up toward half an inch, you might see more power outages,” he said. “People should prepare for possible outages and the roads will be pretty treacherous, especially on bridges and overpasses.”

Precipitation in the Charlotte region isn’t expected to start until midday, said Kimball. As of 6:30 a.m., the leading edge of the precipitation was still out across central Tennessee and about to cross into Alabama.

“It’s still a good 250 to 300 miles away,” he said. “It’s slowly inching across the mid South early this morning.”

While Missouri and Kentucky were seeing snow, Tennessee and Arkansas were mostly seeing freezing rains. And down south in Louisiana and Mississippi, it was mostly rain, said Kimball.

Kimball said once it reaches Charlotte, the wintry precipitation will begin with snow or a snow and sleet mix. Then it will start transitioning to sleet and freezing rain this evening.

It will be all freezing rain in late evening and overnight tonight and will taper off toward daybreak Tuesday, said Kimball.

As a result, a winter storm warming for the entire metro area is in effect through 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Still, it was unclear how much damage the precipitation would cause.

“It’s not going to be like the snowstorm last year,” said Scott Krentz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s officer in Greer, S.C. “And it shouldn’t be as devastating as the 2002 ice storm, but it’s got potential to create some widespread damage – particularly tree damage and power lines.”

Further north, Iredell and Catawba counties could get 5 inches of snow

On Monday, the high is expected to reach 34 before precipitation begins to fall. It’s expected to fall to 31 by 7 p.m., said Kimball.

Partly sunny skies are forecast for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, although it will remain cold.

“The problem is if everything doesn’t dry out and then you refreeze with 23-degree temperatures on Wednesday morning, you could have problems,” meteorologist John Tomko said.

Thursday’s high is forecast to be only 24 degrees, with a low of 9 degrees, said Kimball. Friday’s low is expected around 8, with a high of 31.

“We’re still forecasting a near-record low on Thursday morning and possibly dangerous wind chills, especially in the mountains,” said Kimball. “In Charlotte, the wind chills will get below zero.”

He said a wind chill advisory is expected for the area.

The weather threatened to cause problems for motorists, as well as closings.

In one respect, the storm was well-timed: For Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Monday is a regularly scheduled workday with no classes, and some government offices were closed because of the Presidents Day holiday.

But Tuesday and later in the week could bring closings at CMS and elsewhere. CMS spokesperson Brian Hacker said in a news release that the district “will continue to monitor the weather conditions in collaboration with our county and city partners to determine the best and safest course of action for our employees and students throughout the week.”

Meanwhile, by Monday morning, some school districts that planned to hold classes on Monday announced early closings. ​Caldwell County Schools, Catawba County Schools and Hickory Public Schools will release two hours early today.

Union County Schools was in session but announced Monday morning that the After School Program will close at 4 p.m. and all after-school activities and athletic practices are canceled for the day.

Iredell Statesville Schools, which had planned to be in session today, announced Monday morning that elementary schools will be releasing at noon. Middle and high schools will be releasing at 1 p.m. There will also be no Prime Time Care and all athletic events are canceled, said spokeswoman Susie Wiberg.

Meanwhile, Lincoln and Gaston County Schools are not in session for students today, although it’s an optional teacher workday. York School District I is closed for Presidents Day.

Linda Durrett, Charlotte Department of Transportation’s spokeswoman, said crews were treating city streets with salt brine on Sunday afternoon in preparation for winter weather conditions.

She said the crews would target salt brining on bridges, main roads and hospital entrances.

On Monday morning, Durrett said staff and crews would evaluate their winter preparations to see what else needs to be done. She said the department would update media later in the day.

The Charlotte Area Transit System said buses would run on their regular schedule Monday for as long as possible. The Lynx light rail line planned to operate on a regular schedule Monday, but riders should check the CATS website ridetransit.org for any updates and schedule changes.

Meanwhile, flight-tracking website FlightAware was reporting that there have been four delays today at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport as well as 33 flight cancellations.

In a city statement Sunday evening, Catherine Bonfiglio said the airport will make adjustments to operations and staffing to help travelers.

She said de-icing procedures were expected to begin Monday morning, and taxiways will be treated. Airport roadways, overpasses and parking areas also will be monitored and treated as necessary.

Garbage, recyclable and yard waste collection was scheduled to be normal Monday, but the Solid Waste Services department will evaluate roads at noon, and if conditions are worsening, yard waste collection will be suspended to help with the collection of garbage and recyclables.

The city will review collection schedules on Tuesday morning and make a decision about services based on the weather.

Tomko said those who don’t have to travel should consider staying at home. “For Charlotte, it’s a light snow event,” said Tomko. “I’m not going to say light snow can’t be a problem, but it’s really more of an ice problem for Charlotte now.”

Power outages are also a concern for residents in the county.

Strong winds knocked down power lines Saturday night, leaving about 1,570 homes in Mecklenburg County without electricity.

On Sunday afternoon, Duke Energy spokesman Randy Wheeless said crews were still working on power outages from Saturday night, with about 4,000 customers across the Carolinas without power on Sunday evening.

Duke said power to most customers would be restored Sunday, but a few might remain without power until Monday.

Duke Energy has about 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and about 185,000 were affected by the winds, the utility said.

Wheeless said the company is prepared to dispatch more crews to Charlotte if the need arises.

“As far as the next weather system, we are obviously tracking the weather to see what happens,” said Wheeless. “We have our own team of meteorologists who are tracking the weather from a power-outage situation.”

He encouraged customers to take inventory of what he called “power outage readiness.” He recommended that residents make sure they have flashlights, as well as working batteries for them.

Anyone who experiences a power outage can call 1-800-PowerOn, he said. Although the average time to restore power is three hours, he said “winter storms are very tricky.”

He said the company’s strategy would be to restore the most customers as quickly as possible. So if a tree falls in your yard and you’re the only one without power, your case will be lower priority, he said.

He added that residents should plan ahead for a prolonged outage.

“It’s always good to think about where you would go if the power was off for a day or a night,” he said.

He could not provide an estimate for expected power outages in the area, he said.

“The tricky thing about that storm right now is it’s changing a lot,” Wheeless said. “In a lot of ways, we have to wait to see how the storm rolls through to see exactly what kind of damage we’re talking about.”

The Charlotte area hasn’t seen a major ice storm since December 2002, when accumulating ice crippled much of the state, cutting power to nearly 2 million homes and businesses and leaving hundreds of thousands of residents without power for days.

Cities, counties and governors of both North Carolina and South Carolina issued emergency declarations that let officials restrict movement, raid budgets to pay overtime, regulate prices for key commodities and send out the National Guard, if needed.

More information at CharlotteObserver.com