Winter storm threatens Charlotte, Carolinas on Tuesday

slyttle@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 26, 2014 

A winter storm is expected to bring a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain to parts of the Carolinas on Tuesday, but forecasters aren’t sure whether the immediate Charlotte area will be hit by the system.

Winter storm watches and warnings are posted for two-thirds of South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina.

As for Charlotte, it will be “extremely close,” said Neil Dixon of the National Weather Service office in Greer, S.C.

Accu-Weather, the Pennsylvania-based private meteorological company, is predicting 1 to 2 inches in Charlotte, with heavier amounts to the south and southeast.

The official forecast track Monday morning carries the storm across the southern portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, and then over central South Carolina and southeast North Carolina.

In that scenario, Charlotte might see only flurries, although the southern half of Union County and Lancaster County could get up to an inch of snow.

But some of the computer models predict the area of moisture associated with the storm could spread farther northward. “One of the models has the axis of heaviest snow along the I-85 corridor,” Dixon said.

A series of fast-changing weather developments is expected from Monday into Wednesday.

Monday actually will be a mild day in Charlotte, with temperatures approaching the 60-degree mark. But another in the series of arctic cold fronts is predicted to sweep across the Carolinas later in the day, bringing a return of much colder air.

Dixon said the front is expected to stall along the coast, and a weather disturbance that was near the West Coast on Monday morning is predicted to move eastward and strengthen as it merges with the stalled front.

“The location of that disturbance along the front will make all the difference in the world,” Dixon said. If it forms off the coast, then the heaviest snow will fall along and east of the I-95 corridor. If it forms closer to shore, he said, then the snow line will be pushed a lot farther inland.

The precipitation is expected to reach the Carolinas sometime Tuesday afternoon or evening and continue into Wednesday morning. Temperatures are predicted to be in the upper teens and low 20s during that time, so Dixon said the precipitation will be snow.

The storm threatens to bring snow and freezing rain to places that rarely see it, such as Charleston and Myrtle Beach. The Weather Service in Wilmington says accumulations of 3 inches or more are possible in that area, and snowfall of 2 inches or more is possible in the Charleston region, forecasters say.

“We’ll have a much better idea on Monday as to where the heaviest snowfall will develop,” Dixon said.

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle

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