Carolinas residents got a break from winter weather Tuesday, but meteorologists say we could pay the price on Wednesday.
Southerly winds helped carry temperatures into the lower 70s Tuesday in Charlotte, providing the warmest weather in two weeks. But a powerful cold front is forecast to bring a threat of severe weather to the region by Wednesday afternoon.
The same system responsible for an outbreak of severe weather Tuesday in the Mississippi Valley is forecast to move into the Carolinas on Wednesday afternoon and evening.
The National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory for the Charlotte region, saying southerly winds of 20 mph, gusting to 40 mph, are likely during the day -- before the storms even arrive.
A high wind watch is in effect for the N.C. mountains, where gusts of up to 60 mph are possible.
Forecasters originally expected the heavy rain and storms to reach the mountains by morning and the Charlotte area by early afternoon. But they said Tuesday evening that the system is slower than first thought, and that the worst storms probably won’t arrive in the immediate Charlotte area until early evening.
Meteorologists say the storms probably won’t have much lightning, which is typical of winter thunderstorms. But they will be capable of producing damaging wind gusts. The possibility of tornadoes is being mentioned in forecasts, but it appears as if wind gusts will be the biggest threat.
But Harry Gerapetritis, of the National Weather Service’s office in Greer, S.C., said winds will be strong enough to cause tree damage before the storms even arrive, especially in the foothills and mountains.
“The highest chance of severe thunderstorms will be over northeast Georgia, the Upstate of South Carolina, and the southern Piedmont of North Carolina -- generally along and south of Interstate 85,” Gerapetritis said.
The storms will move east of the area quickly, clearing the Charlotte region shortly after midnight, meteorologists say.
And that will set the stage for a return to more typical winter weather. Forecasters are calling for precipitation-free conditions for several days, into the weekend, and daily highs in the upper 40s.