Charlotte residents are preparing Monday for the coldest weather in five years, with meteorologists saying temperatures could feel like theyre below zero early in the week.
In Charlotte, temperatures could stay below freezing for about 40 hours. That will create a possible problem with water lines freezing and rupturing, both inside residences and under the areas streets.
An arctic front began moving into the Carolinas before daybreak Monday.
Temperatures were falling rapidly in the North Carolina mountains, and snow was falling in Boone and a number of other locations in the northwest mountains. Adding to the discomfort were winds blowing at 20 to 30 mph from the north and northwest.
Polar air behind the front could cause temperatures to drop to 8 degrees in charlotte on Tuesday morning, with a wind chill making it feel like 6 degrees below zero, National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Krentz said.
Its going to be a lot colder than folks are used to, thats for sure, Krentz said.
The cold fronts impact was apparent in Asheville early Monday morning. The temperature fell from 44 degrees at 3 a.m. to 24 degrees by 8 a.m.The wind was blowing from the north at nearly 20 mph, with gusts above 35 mph.
In Boone, early-morning rain changed to snow around daybreak, as temperatures tumbled from the mid 30s overnight into the lower 20s a few hours later. Winds were gusting to near 50 mph.
In response to the threat of arctic cold, shelters across the city mobilized and the Department of Transportation kept some crews on standby in case ice formed on roads.
Rain fell overnight, but as the cold air began pushing into the mountains Monday morning, the precipitation changed to snow. In anticipation of that development, a number of school systems in the high country are closed or are opening on a delayed basis Monday.
Closed on Monday are:
• Ashe County
• Avery County
• Lees-McRae College
• Mitchell County
• Watauga County
• Yancey County
And these schools or systems are opening on a delayed basis:
• Alexander County (three hours)
• Burke County (three hours)
• Caldwell Community College-Watauga (noon)
• Caldwell County (three hours)
• Catawba County (three hours)
• Heritage Christian, Hickory (two hours)
• Hickory City (three hours)
• Hickory Day School (two hours)
• Lenoir Christian (three hours)
• McDowell County (two hours)
• Morganton Day (two hours)
• Thomas Jefferson Classical School, Mooresboro (two hours)
• Western Piedmont Community College (11 a.m.)
Record cold possible
Charlotte has not had a morning low in single digits since the temperature dropped to 9 degrees on Jan. 17, 2009.
The National Weather Service has issued a variety of advisories and warnings across the region as the cold air arrives. A wind chill advisory is posted for Mecklenburg and nearby counties, with meteorologists sayin wind chills could drop to 5 to 10 below zero on Tuesday. A more serious wind chill warning is in effect for the mountains, including higher elevations of Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and Rutherford counties, where the wind chill could fall as low as 30 degrees below zero.
The forecast low of 8 degrees Tuesday morning in Charlotte threatens a record for the date that has stood for more than a century. The current Jan. 7 record low is 12 degrees, set in 1884. The coldest-ever high temperature for the date is 24 degrees, in 1988. That was during a heavy snowstorm. The forecast high Tuesday, with sunny conditions, is 26.
Demand on shelters
Meanwhile, shelters joined with churches over the weekend to provide more housing options for the homeless.
They need to be out of the elements, said Beth Trotter, an employee at the Urban Ministry Center, which runs a program called Room at the Inn each year. The program, which runs from Dec. 1 to March 31 this year, connects the homeless with churches willing to house them for the night.
Anticipating unusually high demand for beds because of the steep drop in temperatures, Trotter said, several churches volunteered to increase their bed capacity or the number of nights they did Room in the Inn.
The churches have really stepped up to help, she said.
Charlottes homeless population prepared for the cold snap by showing up at shelters early to make sure they had a bed.
Jin Lee, who has been homeless for about a year, said hes grateful for the shelters.
Lee has a permanent bed at the Mens Shelter of Charlottes Statesville Avenue location. But with his new job at the Waffle House, hes hoping to save enough money to have his own place by March.
This mens shelter has kept me alive and met my needs, he said.
For those who cant find a place to stay, Lee and other homeless men said on Sunday that people often find shelter at the public library and other public facilities. Some hang out at the bus station or the Charlotte Transportation Center, pretending to wait for a bus, Lee said.
Police can take anyone they find on the street to a shelter, if needed.
We have partnerships with the local shelters and service providers, and they will allow officers to bring in people they contact based on dangerous weather conditions, Capt. Mike Campagna said in an email.
Coldest on Tuesday
National Weather Service meteorologist Danny Gant said high temperatures will reach 48 early Monday and gradually drop throughout the day. By 8 p.m., temperatures will be about 25, he said.
Tuesday ... is going to be one of our coldest temperatures in a long time, Krentz said. Temperatures will drop to 8 degrees on Tuesday morning, with the high around 26 degrees. Thats about 25 degrees below normal, said Krentz.
Wind blowing between 10 and 12 mph coming from the West will make it feel even colder outside, he said.
You dont need a really strong wind to make it feel a lot colder, he said.
Still, theres little chance of ice because the weather will be mostly dry after Monday morning.
Once the arctic high pressure system gets in, its hard to budge it, Krentz said. No systems are going to be moving in, so theres not a good chance of rain until Thursday evening.
Krentz said the area sees such arctic systems every four or five years. He said the last time the area saw one of this magnitude was in 2009, when it got down to 9 degrees. The last time the region saw temperatures drop to 8 degrees was January 2003, Gant said.
Roads expected to be clear
The N.C. Department of Transportation didnt put brine on roads in the Piedmont on Sunday because temperatures werent expected to dip below freezing early Monday, according to a spokesperson.
In the eastern mountain counties and the foothills, where it rained on Sunday, crews were put on standby after the sun went down, preparing to deal with icy patches as temperatures dropped.
The DOT will decide sometime Monday whether to put brine on roads early Tuesday, when temperatures are expected to plummet into the single digits.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport didnt see many weather-related delays, although travelers to some airports buried under winter weather had to wait for hours. Delays were reported for roughly three hours to Philadelphia and Detroit on Sunday afternoon, four hours to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and more than an hour to Chicago.
Meanwhile, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is expected to be open on a regular schedule Monday, according to its website. Hickory Public Schools announced it would have a three-hour delay on Monday morning.
Temperatures will start to warm by Wednesday to about 40 degrees, which is still about 12 or 13 degrees below normal, Krentz said. By Friday, the Charlotte region can expect a high of 51.
Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero