Wintry Precip Chances Dwindle
Good Afternoon Folks! Temps are slightly warmer than expected this afternoon, pushing into the mid 40's for most lower elevation locations, while the ridgelines remain below freezing. Cataloochee Ski Area is currently making snow and with conditions ripe to make snow tonight through at least Saturday afternoon, they will likely take advantage of the short window. All eyes are focused on the upcoming wintry precip threat, however we still have a full day of sunshine to get through before any precip arrives. Temps tomorrow will be a handful of degrees warmer than today, cooling back down on Saturday to levels similar to today, perhaps colder. As the system moves through the region Saturday into Sunday it will drag with it warmer temps, putting a damper on our snowfall potential, however a secondary low may bring us an elevation dependent event Sunday night into Monday. After the second system pushes east an upper level ridge will slide over the Southeast and provide us with dry weather that should linger into the middle and latter part of next week.
As the sun sets and winds calm down to a light breeze, ideal radiational cooling conditions begin and temps will respond, plummeting into the low - mid teens for the valleys, while the ridgelines sit in the upper teens - low 20's. Either way you slice your location will be cold tonight and sunny skies tomorrow will help bring temps reasonable levels, hitting the upper 30's - upper 40's depending upon elevation. Clouds slowly increase out of the west Friday afternoon through the night, capping temps to the upper 20's - mid 30's depending upon elevation.
Due to the dry nature of the air in place ahead of the incoming moisture, temps above freezing may fall below freezing as precip begins, which should occur sometime shortly before or after sunrise on Saturday. This wet bulbing effect will not be strong or last long, with all precip across the mountains starting as light, intermittent snow but eventually transitioning to a cold rain as warm nose aloft pushes in from the southwest. Although things may change as we near the event the model trend has been for less and less moisture developing with this system, which of course translates to a lower snowfall or freezing rain amount. For now it seems a dusting is the most we can hope for if you do not live along the immediate SC state line or just east of the Great Balsams. Locations such as Highlands, Cashiers and Lake Toxaway may sneak out an inch of snow, but eventually cold air damming will weaken as the warm nose wins the battle, translating to snow kicking over to freezing rain for these locations. Elsewhere across SW NC we are likely to see only a cold rain after the initial snow, transitioning sometime during the afternoon hours on Saturday. For the specific locations mentioned above, freezing is rain is likely during the late afternoon hours on Saturday, with ice accretion under a tenth of an inch and a cold rain developing closer to sunset. Temps Saturday will rise to the mid 30's - low 40's depending upon elevation and all of the area will experience a cold rain overnight, as temps sit in the mid - upper 30's.
Sunday brings us continuing rain as the low pressure system is slow to exit the region, with a half inch up to an inch of rain possible before sunset. It'll be a dreary day as temps only hit the upper 30's along the ridgelines and mid 40's for the valley, falling back to the low - upper 30's Sunday night. There is a possibility colder air moves in late Sunday night and as the second low develops, moisture wraps back into the region from the NW, allowing NW flow snow showers to develop. We are not certain as to how strong this second system will be, but a light coating of snow is possible in the usual locations (Smokies, Great Balsams, Cataloochee Ski Area).
Snow for the TN line and a cold rain elsewhere is likely to continue into Monday, ending late Monday night, followed by sunny skies Tuesday into late next week. We'll come out with a forecast discussion on Saturday and we'll dive into more details regarding the second event. Stay safe out there!