A strong storm system moving from the Gulf of Mexico spread a variety of weather across the Carolinas on Tuesday, including freezing rain that coated areas northwest of Charlotte in the morning.
The immediate Charlotte area barely escaped icy conditions, as temperatures dropped to 32 degrees for about two hours before daybreak but went no lower. Shortly before 2 p.m., the Charlotte Douglas International Airport temperature had climbed to 39 degrees.
Temperatures were comfortably above freezing across the Carolinas -- and much warmer in the eastern third of the state.
The freezing rain was part of a major storm system that is expected to bring heavy rain later throughout the day, the chance of severe thunderstorms in the eastern Carolinas on Tuesday evening, and then a burst of snow Wednesday in the western Carolinas.
And as the storm moves up the East Coast, it is expected to cause major problems for Thanksgiving holiday travelers.
The threat of freezing rain Tuesday morning led a number of school systems, mostly north and west of Charlotte, to announce delayed openings. There also were a few closings.
Mecklenburg and most nearby counties were under a freezing rain advisory for several hours Tuesday morning, but the worst of the freezing rain apparently was in the northwest mountains and in Iredell County.
Blue Ridge Electric reported more than 5,200 customers, mostly in western Watauga County, were left without power about 3:30 a.m. when ice brought down trees and power lines. Most customers had their power restored by daybreak.
National Weather Service spotters reported about 1/4 of an inch of ice on exposed surfaces in Iredell County, especially near Mooresville and in the eastern part of the county. At one point, Duke Energy reported about 1,100 outages in Iredell County. Spotters reported ice brought down trees on Bacon Road in Mooresville and on Williamson Road in Love Valley.
Earlier, there was a report of one-quarter-inch ice in the Jonas Ridge area of northwest Burke County. Significant icing also was reported in the Little Switzerland area of McDowell County and in the Polk County town of Saluda.
Forecasters said heavy rain is possible Tuesday afternoon and evening, as the center of the low pressure system moves across northern Florida and Georgia, then up across the eastern Carolinas. About 2 inches of rain is forecast for the immediate Charlotte area, with the foothills getting 3 inches. Lane said recent dry conditions probably will prevent any flash flooding problems. Almost an inch of rain had fallen in Charlotte by early Tuesday afternoon.
As the center of the storm system moved across the eastern Carolinas, forecasters say there will be a major temperature difference between areas west of the storm’s center and the east side. Areas east of U.S. 1 in North Carolina likely will be in the upper 60s Tuesday and Tuesday night.
That increases the possibility of severe thunderstorms and even a few tornadoes in the eastern third of the Carolinas.
On Wednesday, as the storm system pushes up the East Coast, a secondary low pressure center is forecast to swing across eastern Tennessee and western Virginia. Forecasters say that system will dump heavy snow in the N.C. mountains, with amounts of 4 to 6 inches possible. The system could even bring a few snow flurries to the Charlotte area.
Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle