Elevation Dependent Rain/Snow
January 27, 2021
Good morning folks! After a gorgeous and warm day yesterday our attention now is focused on the upcoming rain/snow event today through tomorrow morning and another rain/snow event is likely Saturday night into Sunday, with NW flow snow showers possibly continuing into early next week. Tonight and Saturday night will be an elevation dependent event and for those who live above 3000' - 3500' you will see accumulating snow, enough to cover up the grass with much higher amounts above 4500' - 5000'. For those of us in the valleys, a dusting is all we can hope for as we endure a cold rain for most of the night. Elevation is partially to blame but we can also blame geography as most of our valleys in SW NC are deep and sheltered, translating to a longer period of time for colder air to scour out the in place warmer temps. The third nail in the coffin for the valleys is that most of the higher snow totals on the SNOWCAST map will come from NW flow snowfall and for those who have lived through at least one winter in SW NC, you know all too well the winners and losers with this setup.
Complaining aside (I am a snow lover), we'll experience a precip lull this afternoon followed by a rain to snow transition this evening and then a peak in snowfall and coverage after midnight tonight. Colder air will pour into the region overnight and breezy, cold conditions will make up our morning on Thursday, with flurries hanging on till midday for the TN line while the rest of SW NC experiences clearing skies. Friday will be sunny and chilly but not frigid as temps climb to levels a few degrees below normal. We'll start the weekend on a sunny note and clouds will fill in closer to sunset with temps climbing to levels similar to Friday. Rain moves in Saturday night and we'll experience another elevation dependent snow event across the higher elevations, with precip continuing throughout the day on Sunday; if you need to do work outside this weekend, get it done before sunset on Saturday. The models begin to diverge a bit past the weekend but it looks like regionwide rain/snow will end Sunday evening, however precip will scale back to the TN line as NW flow becomes established, allowing snow to continue into Monday; good news for Cataloochee Ski Area.
Today we'll experience a round of rain before midday but a lull occurs this afternoon, with southwest flow keeping cloudy skies across the region. Temps will warm to the mid 40's - mid 50's depending upon elevation. A second disturbance enters the region this evening alongside colder air that will pour into the region after sunset, kicking rain over to snow just before sunset above 5500', dropping to the valley floor by the pre dawn hours. From midnight to sunrise on Thursday is when we expect peak coverage of snow across the region, however scattered coverage is likely the highest coverage we will experience, with most of the action occurring along or near the TN line. Places like Cataloochee Ski Area will pick up 2 - 4" of snow by the mid morning hours on Thursday and the highest totals around 4 - 6" will occur along the highest peaks in the Smokies. Northern Haywood County will also be a prime area for accumulation, with 1 - 3" in spots like Soco Gap, Maggie Valley, J Creek, Crabtree, and Fines Creek. As you move further south you will need to climb up in elevation to see accumulations above 2", with the Great Balsams being a prime example. Overnight lows will dip into the mid teens - mid 20's depending upon elevation and as we wake up on Thursday, NW winds will be howling around 30 - 45mph along the ridgelines, while the valleys deal with winds in the 5 - 15mph range.
Light snow will continue to pepper the TN line into the mid morning and flurries will linger till midday, while the rest of SW NC gradually experience clearing skies. Even with sunshine overhead after midday, temps will be held to the mid 20's - low 40's depending upon elevation and overnight lows settle into the upper teens - mid 20's under clear skies with winds calming down before midnight.
Friday looks like a nice end to the work and school week with temps reaching the mid 30's - upper 40's depending upon elevation under sunny skies. Overnight lows settle into the low - upper 20's under clear skies. One notable feature for Friday will be the dry air, so low that many of us will need to run humidifiers inside the house to keep the static cling and shocks at bay.
Saturday starts out sunny but moisture moves in before sunset, forming cloudy skies by the early evening hours and a cold rain before the late evening hours. Snow is likely above 4000' while a cold rain falls below this line, however this is not set in stone and we may need to produce a SNOWCAST map because we could be contending with cold air damming. Temps on Saturday reach the mid 30's - upper 40's once again and dip to the upper 20's - mid 30's Saturday night depending upon elevation, warming back to the upper 30's - upper 40's on Sunday.
We'll circle back on Friday with a detailed timeline of events for the next round of rain/snow and offer a peak into early next week, which looks promising for NW flow snow fans.
Rain kicks over to snow Wednesday night, with accumulating snow a good bet above 3000 - 3500'. Snow winds down around sunrise Thursday for most of the region.
Chilly Thursday, highs in the low 40's across the valleys.
Sunny again Friday, highs in the upper 40's and sunshine carries over into Saturday with temps once again hitting the upper 40's.
A second rain/snow event occurs Saturday night into Sunday, followed by a possible extended NW flow event early next week.