A strong cold front being dragged eastward by a Midwest blizzard could bring damaging wind gusts to the Carolinas mountains and foothills through early Saturday, and meteorologists say Piedmont residents also will experience the strong winds.
Mountain snow and colder temperatures will accompany the changing weather pattern, but forecasters see a quieter weekend for the Carolinas.
High wind warnings are posted across the North Carolina mountains, with a high wind watch in effect for the foothills. In addition, a winter weather advisory has been issued for the northern mountains, with 1-2 inches of snow possible Thursday night and another 2-3 inches expected Friday and Friday night.
The snow will be good news for North Carolinas ski resorts on the weekend before Christmas.
Increasing cloudiness will herald the arrival of the cold front Thursday morning, and rain will spread into the Charlotte region by early afternoon. National Weather Service meteorologists say between a half-inch and inch of rain could fall before the precipitation comes to an end between midnight and 3 a.m. Friday.
High temperatures Thursday will be in the upper 50s in Charlotte.
The main impact of this frontal system will be wind, said James Oh, of the Weather Services office in Greer, S.C. Winds will gust to 25 to 30 mph over the Piedmont, with stronger wind gusts to 50 mph in the mountains by early tonight.
Forecasters dont expect severe weather with the frontal passage, although severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are forecast Thursday across southern Georgia, southern South Carolina, and northern Florida. Even parts of eastern North Carolina could experience strong storms.
Friday will bring sunny skies but windy conditions and colder temperatures. In fact, Charlottes high might not exceed 45 degrees, and winds are predicted to gust to near 30 mph.
Wind gusts of 60 mph or stronger are possible Friday and Friday night in the mountains, where the high wind warning will continue.
There is the potential for widespread damaging winds over a large part of the mountains and immediately adjacent foothills, said Harry Gerapetritis, also from the Weather Services Greer office. Isolated wind damage is possible across the Piedmont.
The winds will relent Saturday morning, setting the stage for a clear but seasonably cool weekend. Highs on Saturday and Sunday are expected to be in the low 50s, with morning lows in the mid to upper 20s.
The next storm system is predicted to arrive Christmas Day, with rain forecast for the Charlotte region from sometime Tuesday into Wednesday. Highs will be in the mid 50s.