A Conservative Forecast
Good Morning Folks! Thank you to everyone who has been patiently waiting for the final SNOWCAST map to come out this morning. The models last night all but moved the snow to the north and west of us, however the short term models this morning, in particular the NAM, have brought the storm back and in some spots, with higher totals than previously forecasted. With this in mind, we are taking a conservative approach and going somewhere in the middle as the potential for higher amounts is certainly there, but the potential for ice and sleet also exists. The challenging part for this storm is the warm nose, coupled with how far down the mountains Cold Air Damming sets up. One extreme gives us a mixed bag of precip with only the ridgelines along the Jackson/Haywood county border (the Great Balsams) and points northeast picking up snow, whereas the other extreme all but buries SW NC with shin deep totals. With this in mind, when viewing the SNOWCAST map, notice the large range of totals and understand it could be either option, with a slight chance to exceed those amounts. For instance, Sylva is forecasted to pick up 4 - 8" of snow, 4" being conservative and 8" being aggressive, but if a 10" total was reported we wouldn't be surprised. Some may view this approach as a cop out but with a gradient of 10 - 30 miles between no snow/sleet/freezing rain and all snow, we feel just fine with this approach as the take home should always be impacts to our daily lives and not exact totals.
Soap box aside, the timing of the event will plays out as follows: Light precip already has moved into the Upstate of SC with sleet and wet snow falling, but this will not last long and light precip will continue to shift east, with most of SW NC remaining dry for the rest of the day. The models have however moved up the event to begin sometime during the morning hours on Saturday, really ramping up in coverage and intensities Saturday late afternoon through the early hours on Sunday. Snow showers wind down through the day on Sunday but as the low pressure system slides from the panhandle to the GA coast and up the eastern seaboard, we will see a second round of light snow trailing in its wake with a potential line of heavy snow that may extend into Tuesday. Temps today only reach the mid 40's throughout the valleys today, peaking to the upper 30's for the higher elevations. Temps bottom out to the upper 20's - low 30's tonight and don't move much at all Saturday, with highs in the mid - upper 30's throughout the region. Generally we will see a gradient of light snow amounts in the 1 - 4" range closer to N GA upwards to 12 - 18" directly along the escarpment, with places like Highlands, Lake Toxaway and Cruso really cashing in. The Great Balsams closer to Looking Glass Rock and ridgelines facing east have the best chance to pick up 18" plus, with blizzard like conditions for a period of time.
Sleet and freezing rain also are a factor, more so for the areas that see lower totals as they combat the warm nose aloft and lack of CAD intrusion (those pesky Great Balsams ruin the party once again). Places like Andrews, Bryson City and perhaps Franklin may be the battle grounds between a wintry mix and all snow, so don't pin your hopes on all snow if you live in these locations.
The event will wind down Monday late with snow showers lingering into Tuesday, but for the most part these will be token showers with little to no accumulations to speak of. Temps Sunday only make it to the low - mid 30's across the region after overnight lows in the upper 20's - low 30's Saturday night. Temps dip even further Sunday night into the mid 20's - low 30's and rebound to the low 30's - low 40's Monday.
Impacts to the region include power outages, road closures and government and business closures, including schools on Monday (not official, simply a guess due to snow on roadways).
We'll provide another update Saturday morning, but by then we will be "nowcasting", which will provide us with more details but it will be too late to prepare for the storm. You have today and tonight to prep and we encourage everyone to check in on their neighbors. Have fun and stay safe and as always, send us your snow amounts to email@example.com!!!