Wicked Weather

Published 12:08 pm Thursday, January 21, 2016

The prediction of snow flurries/snow showers last night (Wednesday) may serve as teaser of what may follow this weekend.

According to a Wednesday afternoon report from the National Weather Service office in Wakefield, VA, a complex storm system is expected to impact the east coast beginning later tonight (Thursday) and lasting well into Saturday.

While forecasting the exact track of the storm once it reaches the eastern seaboard is uncertain at this time, NWS officials are saying that the potential exists for “significant winter impacts from this storm.”

“While the initial precipitation is expected to fall in the form of snow or sleet, enough warm air should spread northward, allowing the precipitation to mix with or change over to all rain. However, as the cold air moves back into the region, the precipitation is expected to change back to snow as the storm begins to exit the region later on Saturday,” the NWS-Wakefield office reported on its website.

The NWS forecast in the Roanoke-Chowan area counties calls for sunny skies on Thursday with a high in the upper 30’s. The snow/sleet is expected to arrive in the pre-dawn hours of Friday with little or no accumulation. The precipitation is expected to mix (sleet and rain) around 10 a.m. Friday and change to all rain by 1 p.m. as the temperature is expected to rise into the low 40’s.

The heaviest rain is expected to fall Friday night with 1-2 inches possible. Temperatures at that time are expected to be in the mid 30’s.

Saturday’s high will be in the low 40’s with more rain predicted. The cold air wrapping around the back side of the low pressure system will drop the temperature into the upper 20’s Saturday night, but by that time the main stream of moisture with this system will be far enough to our north and only a small amount of snow is predicted locally.

Again, the NWS stresses that any change in the path of the storm could significantly alter the form of the precipitation and the amount that falls.

“We’re closely monitoring this storm and the forecast models that go with it,” said Northampton County Emergency Management Director Ronnie Storey Jr. on Wednesday afternoon from his office in Jackson.

“The biggest unknowns right now for our area of the state include what the air temperature will be and how fast this storm system moves through,” Storey added. “The difference between two-to-three degrees could quickly change things from rain to sleet or snow. Right now they’re calling for this to begin as sleet in our area, but the temperature is expected to rise during the day on Friday which will change it to all rain. There is the possibility of snow on the back end of the system on Saturday, but they’re not predicting any significant accumulation in our area.

“But then again, look what happened last Sunday; the call for a brief period of snow flurries turned into 1-to-2 inches and we had wrecks, nothing major, all over our county. If that happens with this storm, I would encourage those out and about to slow down and take it easy on the roads,” Storey concluded.

However, there is one known fact to the upcoming storm – the wind, 20-to-25 mph with gusts as high as 35 mph. Those gusts could reach as high as 60 mph along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

Meanwhile, the heaviest snow is expected from the Appalachians from eastern Kentucky into most of West Virginia, Virginia (except southeast portion), Maryland, D.C., northern Delaware and extreme northwest North Carolina. Parts of these areas may see more than 20 inches of total snowfall, with blizzard warnings already posted for Washington, DC and Baltimore.

At least six inches of snow is likely along the I-95 corridor northward through New York City

The highest probability of accumulating ice – to the extent of not only leading to slick roads, but also some tree damage and power outages – extends from southeast Missouri into Kentucky, southern West Virginia, southern Virginia, and western and central North Carolina.

The potential impact of this storm has both Dominion NC Power and Roanoke Electric Cooperative making preparations in advance.

“We’re keeping a close eye on the forecast and how it might affect our system and our customers,” said Bonita Billingsley Harris, Media/Community Relations Manager with Dominion VA/NC Power. “This storm could bring significant accumulations of snow and high winds to parts of our service area, which could bring down trees, limbs and power lines, causing widespread outages and making travel difficult. Our crews, personnel and employees are gearing up to respond to this storm.”

Both Dominion NC Power and Roanoke Electric feature power outage maps on their respective websites where customers can keep track of outages and restoration efforts.

Electric power customers should put together an emergency preparedness kit with needed supplies such as flashlights, water, medicines, portable radios, extra batteries and non-perishable goods.

In the event that you are traveling through an area impacted by frozen precipitation, the North Carolina Highway Patrol offers simple and safe driving tips.

“Winter brings new obstacles and responsibilities that the motoring public will experience when inclement weather moves into our state. Despite a rather mild winter so far, North Carolina’s weather can often change from one day to the next,” says Patrol spokesman, Lt. Jeff Gordon.

Here are a few simple steps to help keep you on the road and less anxious: avoid travel unless necessary when winter weather is in your area; decrease speed; and wear your seatbelt.

If you are out on icy roads, Gordon said to increase distance between vehicles as it takes significantly longer to stop on snow covered or icy roadways.

Clear all windows on your vehicle prior to travel and illuminate your vehicles headlamps.

Use caution on bridges and overpasses as they susceptible to freezing before roadways. Avoid using cruise control – cruise can cause the vehicle’s wheels to continue turning on a slippery surface when speed needs to be decreased.

Ensure that your vehicle has a full tank of gas in the event you are stranded for an extended period of time, and be sure to charge your cellular phone prior to departure. It’s also wise to have a blanket in your vehicle in case you are involved in an accident and have to wait for emergency responders or if your vehicle experiences mechanical problems.

Notify a family member or a friend of your travel plans prior to departure – if you travel is interrupted, someone will know.

If you are involved in an accident, attempt to move your vehicle out of the roadway if it is a minor, non-injury traffic collision; especially if you are in a dangerous area such as a curve or a blind hill. If your vehicle is stranded or wrecked but not in the roadway, attempts to recover your vehicle will have to wait until conditions improve for safety considerations.

To check the status of road conditions, motorists are asked to go to the Department of Transportation’s website at http://www.ncdot.gov/travel/.

The public is not advised to dial 911 or the Highway Patrol Communication Centers for road conditions. However, citizens can contribute to highway safety by reporting erratic drivers to the Highway Patrol by dialing *HP or *47 on their cellular phones. Callers will remain anonymous and should give a description of the vehicle, location, direction of travel and license number if possible.

Looking ahead, sunny skies are expected to return by Sunday with a high in the low 40’s. Monday’s forecast is for mostly sunny skies and a high of 50.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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