Elevation Dependent Snow; Feast or Famine

Good morning folks! We are roughly 36 hours from the event starting, possibly sooner if some of the models are to be believed (a few show a band of snow arriving before midday Saturday before the main event begins Saturday night). This forecast reminds me of several tough and busted calls in the past and maybe the lingering bad taste is steering me toward a low end forecast, but I do not like the growing warm nose over the past model runs. This being said many of us will cash in with ankle and shin deep totals, however there will be a sizeable portion of our population that barely sneaks away with an inch or two. The SNOWCAST Map shows this elevation dependent setup that I am going with, giving the Plateau and most elevations above 4000' anywhere from 6 - 10", while the valley floor around 1900' struggles to scrape together two inches of wet, slushy snow. The highest totals will be throughout the southern portion of the Great Balsams, with Black Balsam Knob likely picking up 14 - 18", even beating out the Smokies as this event will favor the Plateau and upslope region along the escarpment. Sleet is an issue for Bryson City and some freezing rain is possible, but I think the biggest threat to totals will be sleet for the valleys south and west of Dillsboro, although Sylva and Cullowhee will only do better by an inch or two. All of Haywood County will do well with a minimum of 4" in the central valley, maxing out in Cruso and southern Haywood, especially above 3500' past Sunburst. Another area to highlight is the Unicoi, Cherohala, and Snowbird Mountains as they too will pick up north of 6", however the all snow line will likely be closer to 4000', compared to an all snow line around 3000' for Haywood County.


We'll provide another update Saturday morning to make some tweaks to the discussion but for now the SNOWCAST Map should be a one and done release, with no expected adjustments.


The timeline still holds up from our previous discussion, with the added curveball of a band of snow moving into the area around midday Saturday. This could bring us a round of accumulating snow but nothing to worry about, merely an appetizer before the main event begins. Snow is expected to break out in earnest around the mid - late afternoon hours, falling as slight wintry mix but quickly becoming all snow as the column cools with evaporation. All snow is expected to fall throughout the night for most of the region and this is when the valleys are likely to see their window of accumulating snowfall. Temps Saturday warm to the low 30's - low 40's depending upon elevation, bottoming out to the low - upper 20's Saturday night.


We should wake up on Sunday to peak snow coverage and intensities, with places like Highlands, Cashiers, Lake Toxaway or anywhere along the Plateau receiving the worst rates; 1 - 2"/hr possible. This will make for a magical morning but it wont last forever and we encourage folks to get outside and play in the wet snow before the dreaded dry slot and mixing begin sometime around 9 - 11am. This changeover may take longer or occur sooner but it does seem we'll see a switch over to a wintry mix for the valleys before noon, with precip staying all snow above 4000' throughout the event. This dry slot will reduce coverage from widespread around sunrise to scattered by midday and by the mid - late afternoon hours a second round of snow will sweep the region with scattered coverage. The second round should be all snow for all elevations as colder air pours into the area as the low departs the region, however this go around accumulations will favor the TN line and NW facing slopes as we transition to a NW flow event Sunday night into Monday. Temps Sunday will reach the mid 20's above 4000', while the valleys warm to the low - mid 30's, dropping to the low - upper teens overnight.


We advise folks stay off the roads Sunday morning (regionwide moderate - heavy snow) and again Sunday night as snowmelt easily freezes on roadways, setting the stage for a dangerous drive Monday morning.


Temps Monday remain frigid, only warming to the low 20's - mid 30's depending upon elevation, alongside NW winds around 10 - 20mph. Light snow will end along the TN line shortly after midday and sunny skies will be overhead for the rest of SW NC.


We'll stop here and circle back tomorrow morning around 10am. If you have any questions about your location or the area in general, shoot me an email at pj@mtnwx.com. ENJOY!



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