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Slowly winter relaxes its grip on Carolinas; warmer temps expected

By Steve Lyttle
slyttle@charlotteobserver.com

Schools are closed again in the mountains, and temperatures are well below freezing in the Charlotte area Wednesday morning ... but there are signs that the wintry weather is relaxing its grip on the Carolinas.

Forecasters say the repeated rounds of accumulating mountain snow have come to an end, and they predict Charlotte's afternoon temperatures will climb into the 50s Wednesday afternoon.

That's still a long ways from what we're supposed to be at this time of year, when the average high in Charlotte is 66 degrees.

But today's highs in the lower 50s will be an improvement over Monday and Tuesday, when Charlotte's highs were in the upper 40s.

And forecasters say Charlotte's readings will approach 60 degrees by Friday.

In the meantime, wintry weather continues to dominate the region.

A little more snow fell overnight in the mountains, adding to accumulations that have reached a foot in some places. The North Carolina ski resorts are remaining open, with a fresh pack of new snow that will last through the Easter weekend.

Schools are closed Wednesday -- for the third consecutive day -- in Ashe, Avery, Madison, Mitchell, Watauga and Yancey counties. Delayed openings are taking place for the Alleghany County Schools, and for Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk and Caldwell Community College's campus in Watauga County.

The N.C. Department of Transportation reports roads are snow-covered and slippery in the mountains, above 3,000 feet.

The heaviest snowfall totals are 13 inches at Maggie Valley, in Haywood County west of Asheville; and 12 inches near Mars Hill, northeast of Asheville in Madison County.

But there also are reports of 7 inches at Banner Elk, Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain in Avery County, and 5 inches at Spruce Pine in Avery County. Boone has 6 to 8 inches of snow.

At lower altitudes, Wednesday was another cold morning.

The unofficial low temperature at Charlotte Douglas International Airport was 26 degrees. While that is more than 15 degrees colder than the average low, it did not approach the record low for the date -- 19 degrees, set in 1955.

Charlotte's 26-degree reading at 7 a.m. was the coldest in the region, although it was 28 at Rock Hill. Most other reporting stations had readings of 30 to 32 degrees.

Forecasters expect mostly sunny skies Wednesday, with highs climbing into the lower 50s. Sunshine and middle 50s are forecast Thursday, with temperatures predicted to reach the upper 50s by Friday.

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