Residents, road crews prepare for winter storm expected Tuesday

slyttle@charlotteobserver.comFebruary 10, 2014 

Road crews and Carolinas residents began preparing Sunday for a double-barreled winter storm expected to bring several inches of snow to Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday, and sleet and freezing rain in other areas.

The National Weather Service said it expected more than 3 inches in Charlotte from the first system Tuesday. Additional snowfall is likely Wednesday from the second system, forecasters said.

The N.C. Department of Transportation launched its trucks on the road at midday Sunday, when sunshine and southerly winds sent temperatures soaring above 60 degrees in Charlotte. Jen Thompson of the DOT said 22 trucks spread brine on major highways to prepare for the snow, which is forecast to begin late Monday or early Tuesday. By Sunday evening, state crews had progressed to secondary roads.

Sunday’s mild weather was expected to end overnight. A cold high pressure system is forecast to bulge southward over the Carolinas, and a pair of low pressure systems then are predicted to track across the Southeast.

While crews were laying a coat of the salt-water mixture on the roads, Charlotte-area residents flocked into grocery stores and hardware stores. An employee at the Lowe’s store at Sycamore Commons shopping center in Matthews said Sunday that business had increased in the afternoon for winter-related items.

Long lines also were reported at most grocery stores in the area.

Charlotte has not been hit by a major winter storm since early January 2011.

The approaching weather systems will bring a mix of precipitation types. National Weather Service meteorologist Jake Wimberley said Sunday afternoon that the location of the arctic cold front – the boundary line between the milder air that Charlotte enjoyed Sunday and the much colder air arriving overnight – will play a key role in precipitation types and amounts.

“The trend on Sunday has been for the front to set up farther south of Charlotte than first indicated,” Wimberley said. “That would mean more snow and less sleet or freezing rain.”

But Wimberley added, “Somewhere south of Charlotte, it will be pretty messy.”

He said another inch or two of snow is possible Wednesday in Charlotte from the second system, with a period of sleet possible in the afternoon.

However, one of the main computer models used by forecasters predicted Sunday that the second storm system would cut across interior portions of the Carolinas, rather than up the coast. Wimberley said such a track would bring considerably more snow to the Charlotte region.

Winter storm watches already are posted across parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. The watches include the Atlanta area, where snowfall two weeks ago caused chaos on the city’s roadways.

Forecasters said Sunday that some parts of the South could get damaging accumulations of ice from freezing rain. Computer models indicated that was most likely across central Georgia and the South Carolina Midlands. But if the barrier between mild and cold air is closer to Charlotte, then freezing rain will become more likely locally.

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

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