A strong low pressure system that is forecast to bring heavy snow and blizzard conditions to the Midwest and Great Lakes could threaten the South with tornadoes on Christmas Day and a continued severe weather threat Wednesday in the Carolinas.
Meteorologists say the powerful storm will almost certainly bring significant rain to the Charlotte region from late Christmas through Wednesday, and they are watching for the additional possible impact of severe weather and strong winds in the wake of the system.
The Carolinas are in a risk area outlined by the Storm Prediction Center for Wednesday, said Chris Horne, of the National Weather Service office in Greer, S.C.
The Charlotte region got a taste of the wet weather Monday, when a weaker low pressure system brought several hours of rain. The precipitation was heavy enough to cause minor flooding along the Interstate 40 corridor between Statesville and Hickory.
But a bigger system was forecast to take shape Christmas Eve and move from the West Coast across the Rockies and into the Midwest. Winter storm and blizzard warnings are posted for a large chunk of the nations midsection, from Missouri to Ohio.
Farther to the south, severe weather is the threat.
The Storm Prediction Center has forecast a moderate risk of severe thunderstorms and even a few tornadoes for Christmas Day across parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. That is an unusually high level of risk for winter.
As that inclement weather moves eastward early Wednesday, forecasters say the Carolinas will be under the gun.
Horne says it is possible the atmosphere in the Charlotte region wont become unstable enough to allow for thunderstorm development. But he said the chance exists.
A break in the rain is predicted Tuesday morning and into the afternoon hours, before the precipitation returns in the evening. Rain is forecast to continue overnight.
Then well have to see what happens Wednesday, Horne says.
Regardless of the severe weather threat, forecasters said gusty winds are likely later Wednesday, from circulation around the back side of the low pressure system. Those northwest winds could gust above 40 mph late Wednesday and Thursday. With tree roots possibly weakened from the rain, meteorologists said the winds could knock down trees.
Horne noted that it was two years ago today when the Carolinas braced for a Christmas snowstorm. About a half-inch fell late that night in Charlotte, and more fell on Dec. 26.
Itll be nothing like that this year, he said.