University City

UNC Charlotte students discuss ‘ice storm’

Freezing rain amounts varied from 1/10 inch at UNC Charlotte to quarter inch in Union and Gaston counties and parts of Charlotte, according to the NWS. Ice forms on a shelter at the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens during the afternoon Feb. 17.
Freezing rain amounts varied from 1/10 inch at UNC Charlotte to quarter inch in Union and Gaston counties and parts of Charlotte, according to the NWS. Ice forms on a shelter at the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens during the afternoon Feb. 17. COURTESY OF THOMAS WINESETT

The Charlotte area’s first winter storm of the season brought with it freezing rain, multiple days of school closings and an added stint of cold weather.

Thomas Winesett, 23, is a graduate student at UNC Charlotte’s Earth Science department who focuses on meteorology and shares his forecasts via Twitter @twineset.

The North Carolina native, who earned a bachelor’s in atmospheric science at UNC Asheville, says he’s always been fascinated by the diverse weather of the state, “especially during the winter, where we can have 60-degree weather followed by a winter storm two days later,” Winesett said.

“This was one of the more complicated winter storms that I can remember forecasting,” Winesett said. “Leading up to the event, the computer models were having a hard time agreeing with how the storm was going to evolve and what type of wintry precipitation was going to occur.”

UNC Charlotte students discuss ice storm

“During this event, the weather models underestimated how much cooling would occur from evaporation and were predicting a lot more ice due to freezing rain,” Winesett said. “Thankfully, we avoided a big ice storm since the majority of the precipitation fell as sleet.”

Winesett described this year’s winter as comparable to last year’s, with multiple outbreaks of cold air mixed with warm spells.

“The majority of our wintry precipitation typically doesn’t occur until February, and Charlotte averages around 4 inches of snow each winter, so we aren’t too far off from an average winter,” Winesett said. “There is still a chance to see some more wintry weather later this month, as the cold and stormy pattern continues.”

Ricky Matthews, a senior meteorology major at UNC Charlotte, has been fascinated in weather since second grade when a Nor’easter allowed him to witness rain turn to snow.

Since then, he’s been known as the weather guy, writing weather reports in school and doing the weather during morning announcements. Now he provides weather-related info on Twitter @wxrjm and @UNCCWeather, which he helped create.

“The setup for the storm was pretty simple,” Matthews said. “We had a very cold air mass in place after several Arctic fronts moved across our region that left the ground very cold and ready to allow whatever fell to stick.”

The weather models could not agree on what type of precipitation would fall.

“We’re lucky a lot of the precipitation fell as sleet,” Matthews said. “If we had more freezing rain, we would have been dealing with more power outages and downed trees. We’re also lucky the winds were light, as winds plus ice equals more problems.”

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