Charlotte’s weather: Nice, then wet for weekend

Charlotte will have nice weather to start the new year before conditions slide downhill into a wet weekend – but there may be a small reprieve for the Panthers’ playoff game Saturday afternoon.

The year started with chilly conditions, as the unofficial morning low Thursday in Charlotte was 26 degrees.

Clouds were expected to increase late Thursday and early Friday, and light rain is possible Friday across the Charlotte region. Meteorologists said the rain could start as light freezing drizzle Friday morning in the mountains, but no significant accumulations are expected.

In Charlotte, temperatures are expected to reach the lower 50s again Friday.

By Saturday, forecasters said, the region is expected to be locked into a cold air damming event, with high pressure over New England pumping chilly, damp air into the North Carolina Piedmont. Justin Lane of the National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C., said high temperatures might not climb out of the upper 40s Saturday in the Piedmont.

That will mean chilly weather for the Panthers’ 4:30 p.m. NFL wild-card playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals. But there is good news.

Lane said he thinks rainfall Saturday morning could taper off to a drizzle or end entirely in the afternoon hours, before another area of rain arrives late Saturday night.

A dramatic temperature rise is expected late Saturday and early Sunday. Lane said Charlotte’s temperatures likely will climb from the upper 40s Saturday evening into the lower 60s by daybreak Sunday. That could set the stage for strong thunderstorms to develop Sunday afternoon when a cold front crosses the region.

Behind the front, dry and cool weather is forecast for the first half of next week. Sunshine and daily highs in the upper 40s are forecast.

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