North Carolina, southern Virginia brace for immobilizing storm with heavy snow and ice
A storm will bring areas from North Carolina to southern Virginia heavy snow and ice with the likelihood of widespread power outages, travel shutdowns and disruptions to daily activities from late Saturday to Monday.
While much of the Midwest and all of the Northeast will sit this storm out and rain will raise the risk of flooding in the Deep South, the southern Appalachians and Piedmont areas face an immobilizing storm.
Even though the wintry side of the storm will dodge the major airport hubs of Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City, airline delays and flight cancelations are likely as aircraft and crews in the heart of the storm, such as the major hub of Charlotte, North Carolina, are displaced.
Since the storm or its after-effects will continue beyond the weekend, expect school delays and closures into the coming week.
Many municipalities in the South may have great difficulty in handling a winter storm of this magnitude.
Some roads may be blocked and power may be out for several days in the storm's wake.
Which areas can expect the heaviest snow?
The heaviest snow, on the order of 12-18 inches with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 24 inches is likely to be centered on western North Carolina. All or mostly snow is forecast to fall from the storm in this area.
Travel along portions of Interstate 26, I-40, I-77 and I-81 may be brought to a halt.
Cities that may receive a foot or more of snow include Hickory, Boone, Gastonia, Statesville, Wilkesboro, Morganton, Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Asheville, North Carolina.
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Farther north, progressively drier air will limit the amount of snow, even though snow may fall for the entirety of the storm in southeastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia and southernmost West Virginia. In these areas, from 3-12 inches will fall.
However, Danville, Martinsville, Galax, Wytheville and Blacksburg, Virginia, as well as Bluefield, West Virginia, have the potential for 6 inches or more of snow.
The dry air is likely to result in a sharp northern edge of the accumulating snow, where a difference of 50 miles may mean the difference between a dusting and enough snow to shovel and plow across east-central Kentucky, south-central West Virginia and west-central Virginia. That plow/no plow zone may be within 50 miles of Beckley, West Virginia, and Charlottesville, Virginia.
Storm to produce heavy ice and wintry mix
Farther south and east, a greater percentage of the storm will occur as an icy mix and/or plain rain, which will limit the accumulation. However, this does not mean that a heavy amount of snow and ice cannot occur.
There is likely to be great impact on travel and daily activities despite the changeover in precipitation.
Download the free AccuWeather app to see the snowfall or ice forecast for your location.
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While rain may try to wash away some of the snow, the period of ice before plain rain may be too much for the water to help all that much in cities such as Durham and Charlotte, North Carolina, and Petersburg, Virginia.
The snow with the added weight of ice and water may be extremely difficult to remove, unless temperatures surge well into 50s. A warm surge that great is not likely in the snow and ice area. Temperatures may barely get above freezing over much of this area during the storm.
Snow may fall at the rate of 1-2 inches per hour in some areas where a change to ice and plain rain may follow from Saturday night to Sunday morning. This means that roads may become impassable in a matter of minutes in some cases.
People are urged to stay off the roads and heed official warnings during the event in these cities and others to allow the limited number of crews to battle the storm without vehicles blocking the way.
A wide range in snowfall is expected from southeast to northwest across the I-85 corridor from Virginia to North Carolina, including the Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham areas. In this swath, a difference of 25 miles may bring a couple of inches of snow and slush farther to the southeast to a foot of snow farther to the northwest.
Conditions in this swath and across the northern counties of South Carolina, the northeastern counties of Georgia and the easternmost counties of Tennessee may vary tremendously, ranging from snow and sleet followed by street flooding to wintry conditions throughout the storm.
Timing the long-duration storm
Rain, thunderstorms and a wintry mix are scheduled to slowly overspread the southeastern U.S. on Saturday.
Changes in temperature in the atmosphere are likely to allow rain at the start and end of the storm in some locations.
The rain does not necessarily mean a that blockbuster snow or ice event will be prevented.
Chilly air with pockets of snow, ice and rain are forecast to linger in the wake of the storm on Monday.
While the storm is forecast to wind down on Monday, temperatures will not significantly rebound through the middle days of the week.
While sunshine during the day will melt a small amount of snow, the snow and ice cover is not likely to rapidly disappear.
At least Tuesday, Wednesday and part of Thursday should be free of precipitation in the region for storm cleanup operations.