Feast or Famine; Elevation and Location
Good Morning Folks! Today is the day, well really later this evening and through the overnight hours, but we are now in the nowcasting portion of the event (under 12 hours). Some models Wednesday night and into the morning hours have upped totals for most of the area, minus Cherokee and Clay counties where elevation and marginal temps undermine accumulation efforts. Although higher totals are possible compared to the above SNOWCAST map, we are not adjusting the totals as there exist a high bust potential and anything can happen when dealing with an upper level low. The one exception where we think tacking on 1 - 3" is a safe bet is northern Haywood down to Waynesville. Let's dive into the details.
Clouds will continue to thicken as the day moves along and with most of us starting the day in the upper teens - mid 20's, we'll climb to the upper 30's - mid 40's this afternoon. Precip may develop and enter the area as soon as the late afternoon - early evening hours for those who live in Clay or Macon counties and if you live above 3000' it should be all snow. For those who live below this line, we'll contend with a rain/snow mix for a few hours (perhaps longer in Robbinsville and Bryson City) and then kick over to all snow as evaporational cooling brings temps down a few degrees. Precip coverage will expand through the evening hours and all of SW NC will be under a light - moderate snowfall by the pre dawn hours on Friday (minus the battleground valley towns). The upper level low will traverse overhead during the morning hours on Friday and peak snowfall rates will occur from roughly 4am - 10am. One thing to note about precip coverage is where the moisture is coming from. We will be dealing with a south - southeast flow across the region and this will also create some downsloping issues for the deeper valleys as moisture dries out slightly coming off the Nantahala Range and Southern Highlands Plateau. This and the issue of marginal temps are really what will make it hard to rack up the totals in Bryson City, Robbinsville and perhaps further into SW NC in places like Franklin, Sylva, and Cullowhee. On the opposite end, Highlands, Cashiers, Lake Toxaway and Little Canada will feature the highest totals as upslope and elevation play to their advantage.
Coverage will begin to wane as we enter the late morning hours on Friday and instead of the precip field weakening and eventually fizzling out, precip will consolidate into scattered showers , leading to hit and miss snow showers at the tail end of the event. This scattered coverage window could produce some heavy snowfall rates and lead to one location being an inch or two higher than another location just a mile or two away. As both the upper level and surface level low pressures move away from WNC, we'll switch to a NW flow snowfall and coverage will slowly scale back to the TN line the rest of the afternoon hours on Friday. We should mention we do not know where the elusive deformation band will setup and how strong it may be, however the models do point to this occurring outside of SW NC and this is another reason we have not upped our totals, as this feature would certainly overcome the rain/snow issues in our deepest valleys, but alas, it does not look it will cross overhead for this event.
Temps all the while on Friday will only make it to the mid 20's - upper 30's depending upon elevation and we should mention the snow type will be wet throughout the majority of the event, becoming lighter and smaller after midday when we transition to NW flow. Keep this in mind as temps dip into the low - upper 20's Friday night and convert the wet snow into a harder snowpack, also refreezing or solidifying snow on secondary roads that were not fully scraped. NW flow snow will continue overnight for the TN line and nearby ridgelines, with another 1 - 2" in the cards for Cataloochee Ski Area.
Saturday and Sunday look pleasant but chilly with temps in the low 30's - low 40's under mostly sunny skies Saturday and increasing clouds late Sunday. Overnight lows will dip into the upper teens - mid 20's each night, so be very cautious if you have to drive each morning and look out for black ice.
If this wallop of a snowstorm didn't do it for you, we have another event we are eying for Monday into Tuesday! We'll only mention it to not conflict with this event tonight into Friday, but be sure to check back in Saturday morning for a in depth look into early next week.
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