Charlotte could see 8 inches of snow and nearly a fifth of an inch of ice from the season’s first winter storm, expected to turn from rain Saturday afternoon to sleet, snow and freezing rain on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
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The latest NWS estimates bounced from 9 inches of snow on Friday to 6 inches Saturday morning and then to 8 inches Saturday afternoon. Ice estimates went from 0.13 inches on Friday to a tenth of an inch Saturday morning and then to a fifth of an inch Saturday afternoon, according to NWS weather maps.
Emergency officials continue to warn North Carolinians to stay off the roads if possible this weekend because of ice, freezing rain, sleet and snow that could make driving “treacherous,” as Gov. Roy Cooper said.
“This weekend isn’t the time to head out to see the winter wonderland,” the governor said at a news conference Saturday. “Stay safe where you are. Getting out on dangerous roads could put your life at risk.”
Cooper on Friday declared a state of emergency for all 100 NC counties.
Duke Energy expects at least 500,000 customers in the Carolinas will lose power.
Newland in the N.C. mountains could see the most snow at 16 inches, followed by Statesville, Hickory, Morganton, Lenoir, Burnsville and Brevard with 14 inches, Lincolnton and Salisbury 12, Asheville 11, Gastonia 10 and Monroe and Rock Hill 4 inches, NWS meteorologists in the Greer, S.C., office estimated at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“If you haven’t prepared for this winter storm, your window is closing rapidly,” the NWS Greer office tweeted Saturday. “This is one to take seriously.”
As NWS forecasters expected, rain arrived shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday. The nasty stuff had been expected to arrive in Charlotte as sleet shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday, but NWS meteorologists adjusted that on Saturday afternoon to say snow was going to show up first, between 9 and 11 p.m. Saturday.
Two to 4 inches of snow was expected at Charlotte Douglas International Airport from Saturday night until about 5 a.m. Sunday, according to the NWS forecast Saturday afternoon.
Sleet is forecast to then mix with the snow, with the precipitation becoming all sleet by 7 or 8 a.m. at the airport, meteorologist Jake Wimberley of the NWS office in Greer told The Charlotte Observer. Southern Mecklenburg could see freezing rain during that same period Sunday morning, he said.
Mostly sleet will continue to fall at the airport until about 2 p.m. Sunday, when it is forecast to change back to snow, according to Wimberley. Sleet is expected to mix back in with the snow Sunday night, he said.
Sunday morning and afternoon, new ice accumulations of less than a 0.1 of an inch are possible, the NWS forecast said, along with 2 to 4 inches of new snow and sleet accumulation.
Snow and sleet are likely to continue at the airport until 11 p.m, Sunday, when the precipitation is expected to become all sleet, according to Saturday’s NWS forecast. Less than an inch of snow and sleet are expected Sunday night, the NWS forecast showed.
Bad weather could continue into the workweek. The NWS said snow and sleet are possible before 9 a.m Monday, followed by snow from 9 a.m. to noon and rain and snow in the afternoon.
Charlotte road crews pre-treated streets, bridges and culverts for two days with brine, Liz Babson, director of the Charlotte Department of Transportation, said at a Friday news conference. The city will have 37 trucks clearing roads around the clock beginning Saturday night, she said.
American, Southwest, Delta, United, JetBlue and Frontier airlines have travel waivers in place allowing customers to rebook impacted flights free of charge, Charlotte’s airport tweeted.