North Carolina Prepares For “Historic Storm;” Fears Of “Impossible Travel Conditions”

Ed Vallee, head meteorologist at Vallee Weather Consulting, is now warning that a “severe winter storm” is about to hit parts of North Carolina this weekend.

His forecast on Thursday, correctly pointed out that Winter Storm Diego was going to be a “historic storm in parts of NC and VA this weekend. European ensemble data is suggesting a wide area of 12″+ of snow, which is more than the seasonal normal snowfall in many areas outside of the mountains.”

While much of his forecast has not changed, he is indicating that western parts of the state could get 8 to 16 inches as the system is currently moving over south Texas towards the southeast as it collides with cold air.

“As we have been discussing in our going forecast, a severe winter storm will impact the western Carolinas and parts of Southwest Virginia this weekend. A small shift southward has removed areas in the Shenandoah (sp?) Valley of Virginia from heaviest accumulations, including the city of Roanoke, VA. However, we are still expecting some snowfall accumulation in this region. The hardest hit areas will likely be along the 1-77 corridor north of Charlotte, NC into southwestern Virginia, where 8-16” of snow is expected to fall. Further south and east, including major cities of Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Winston Salem, NC, snow is expected to evolve into a wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain, potentially limiting snowfall accumulations. However, ice will be just as, if not more, impactful in these areas typically not equipped with proper equipment to remove such large amounts of snow and ice. This system will promote tough to at times impossible travel conditions along the major interstates of I-77, I-85, I-81, and I-40 Saturday night through Monday,” said Vallee.

Also, the National Weather Service (NWS) predictions model shows as much as 18 inches could hit Charlotte, as government weather forecasters are trying to pinpoint the line where cold high pressure from the east would collide with moist out of the Gulf of Mexico.

Right now, that line is expected to be around the North Carolina-South Carolina state border.

A winter storm watch is already in effect for the western part of the state, and a winter storm warning is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. on Saturday and remain in effect until noon Monday.

NWS warns that widespread power outages are possible for extended periods during and immediately following the storm. 

“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” said the NWS briefing. “Road conditions could deteriorate as early as Saturday evening, with highway travel continuing to be impacted through early next week. Visibility may drop to less than a half mile during periods of heavy snow.”

Asheville, a city in western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, records typically about 10 inches of snow per season, may have a blow out year, due to Saturday’s storm could dump as much as 16 inches. NWS says Charlotte may get as much as 13 inches.

“The amount of snow that could fall on western North Carolina, that’s not something you see every day,” Nick Vita, a meteorologist with Commodity Weather Group, told Bloomberg. The heaviest snowfall should be from about 2 a.m. Sunday until mid-afternoon.

Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Friday. 

Duke Energy Corp., with more than 3.4 million customers in North Carolina, is calling for “widespread, multiple-day power outages” and hazardous road conditions.

“The heavy snow potential could bring down some trees, tree branches, which in turn could bring down some power lines, especially across western North Carolina,” Vita said.