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New Winter Storm Prediction Calls For Up To 7 Inches Of Snow, Possible Power Outages

CharlotteObserver.com

The rapidly changing predictions for Charlotte’s first snow of the season now shows the area could get up to seven inches, according to the National Weather Service. A Winter Storm Warning goes into effect at 7 p.m.

Some rain is predicted Friday around 3 p.m., with a 100 percent chance for snow around 8 p.m. Wind gusts will be as high as 22 mph. The snow will continue off and on through the night and end around 1 p.m. Saturday.

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper has authorized a state of emergency for all 100 counties in the state, to make sure they are prepared for the worst. “Our No. 1 priority is to keep people safe...and you can do that by staying off the roads,” he urged at a mid morning press conference.

National Weather Service meteorologist Trisha Palmer says the heavy wet snow could bring down tree limbs and power lines, and she says power outages in the extreme cold would be dangerous.

“We cannot stress this enough,” Trisha Palmer said Friday morning. “Preparations for this winter storm need to be rushed to completion today.”

As is typical with winter storms in the Carolinas, the forecast is tricky. Some computer guidance is showing that more rain and sleet might mix with the snow, cutting on the predicted accumulations.

Either way, the rain-snow cutoff line won’t be far to the south and southeast of Charlotte, and WBTV meteorologist Al Conklin notes, “There will be a sharp cutoff (in accumulations) to the southeast of Charlotte.”

On Saturday, temperatures are predicted to get above freezing about 2 p.m., which could hasten melting. However, temperatures will fall again around 6 p.m. and snowmelt on roads will start to refreeze. The low Saturday night will be around 13 degrees.

Meteorologist Chris Larson at WBTV is predicting up to six inches of snow in Charlotte and he says it “isn’t going to melt very quickly. And remember road crews will concentrate on main interstates, highways and arterial roadways first. So secondary roads and neighborhood streets may be snow covered and slick for several days after the snow comes to an end.”

On Sunday, temperatures will rise above freezing only two hours (3 to 5 p.m.). Then, an arctic air mass will build in the region, bringing exceptionally cold temperatures and a low of around 9 degrees.

Meteorologists are cautioning Carolinas residents not to focus solely on the snow, because the extreme cold after the storm could cause additional problems. Temperatures are expected to drop into the low teens Sunday morning and into single digits Monday morning.

That could cause water pipes to burst in homes. Officials with Charlotte Water say residents should prepare by insulating pipes in unheated areas of homes and disconnecting garden hoses from outdoor spigots.

Once the cold arrives, residents should open doors under cabinets, so warmer air circulates around pipes during the night.

The best chance the community has for a big thaw is Tuesday, when temperatures will hit 44 degrees.

Travel will be hazardous during the snow fall period, officials say.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools canceled all after-school and evening events for Friday and all athletic activities and community events in schools for Saturday and Sunday. CMS plans to operate on a normal school-day schedule Friday.

The city of Charlotte urged everyone to stay off roads beginning Friday evening, if possible. “The snow, combined with the frigid temperatures, will make travel treacherous,” city officials said in a statement.

American and other airlines announced they would waive re-ticketing fees for passengers flying out of Charlotte and other cities in the Southeast.

The Charlotte Department of Transportation said Friday morning that it will have its 32 trucks outfitted with plows and salt spreaders by 2 p.m. Friday, and that the trucks will operate on a 24-hour schedule when the snow starts falling.

Charlotte, North Carolina and South Carolina transportation departments plan additional brining of roads Friday.

N.C. Department of Transportation crews also prepared to treat the region’s roads, bridges and overpasses beginning Thursday morning. NCDOT staff in Division 10, which includes Anson, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Stanly and Union counties, intended to place brine on the division’s major highways. That included Interstate-77, I-85, I-485 and U.S. 74, along with other high-volume highways.

Crews also were at work in Alexander, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell and Lincoln counties, placing brine on the division’s primary and “bare pavement” routes. That included interstates, N.C. and U.S. routes and other highly traveled roads.

The Charlotte Area Transit System anticipates operating a regular schedule for buses and LYNX trains. CATS will watch weather reports to determine if and when the CityLynx Gold Line will operate.

Some weekend events have already been rescheduled, including the Charlotte Museum of History’s Twelfth Night event to Feb. 11.