An arctic air mass bringing the coldest temperatures so far this winter is pushing into the Carolinas, bringing strong winds and the threat of heavy mountain snow.
Temperatures are not expected to climb much above 35 degrees Friday in Charlotte, despite full sunshine. And gusty northwest winds likely will produce wind chills in the 20s.
The N.C. Department of Transportation has put its road crews on alert for possible snow-covered and icy roads early Friday in the higher elevations.
Forecasters say an even colder air mass appears headed for the Charlotte region next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Winter storm and high wind warnings are posted Thursday night and early Friday for counties along the Virginia and Tennessee borders. From 2 to 4 inches of snow are expected in many areas, with heavier amounts predicted for the highest mountain elevations. The heaviest snow is expected at elevations above 3,500 feet.
Northwest winds of 20 to 30 mph could gust to 55 mph overnight, forecasters say, and temperatures are predicted to fall to 10 degrees or colder.
“It will be a night fit for neither man nor bear in the mountains,” National Weather Service meteorologist Justin Lane said earlier Thursday.
In the Charlotte region, light rain is predicted to end well before midnight, with clearing expected soon afterward. With clearing skies will come gusty northwest winds and temperatures tumbling quickly from the 40s into the mid 20s.
Authorities do not expect widespread black ice formation in the Piedmont, saying the winds are likely to dry the roads before ice forms.
But icy roads are expected in the mountains.
The N.C. DOT says crews in Division 11, which includes Ashe, Alleghany, Avery, Wilkes, Caldwell and Watauga counties, began work at 6 p.m. Thursday. The DOT will decide late Thursday night if it should call in contractors to help with snow and ice removal.
Black ice already is being reported Thursday evening in Ashe and Avery counties.
In Division 13, which includes, Burke, McDowell and Rutherford counties, crews are treating icy spots along the Tennessee border and are scheduled to work 12-hour shifts with snow and ice removal.
The same is true in Division 14, which includes the western mountain counties.
The mountain snow is expected to end Friday morning, but the cold and winds will continue throughout the day.
This cold blast is part of a much larger system that will keep the eastern half of the United States in the deep freeze for the next few days.
A brief trend toward milder conditions is forecast for Sunday and Monday, but then an even stronger arctic system is predicted to push into the region.
Temperatures might struggle to reach 30 degrees for high temperatures Tuesday in Charlotte.
Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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