Rain to Snow Christmas Eve; FRIGID Christmas Day
Good morning folks! We are two days out from our rain/snow event Thursday into Friday and the trend continues to show snow falling and accumulating Christmas Eve into Christmas Day, mainly late Thursday afternoon into the overnight hours. This will be an elevation favored event, so the higher up you are the better your chances for accumulating snow but as of early Tuesday morning, the models show a setup that could bring a heavy dusting to most everyone across WNC. The trick with this setup is how much moisture lingers past the frontal passage, while at the same time, how fast will the cold air rush into the region. Before we see any snow we will deal with a moderate rain event on Christmas Eve, with 1 - 3" of rain falling across the region before any snow falls; minus the highest peaks above 5500'. All snow should wind down early Friday morning and Christmas Day is shaping up to be our coldest day of the season with sub freezing temps across all of WNC, coupled with strong winds that will bring wind chill values below zero at times for the higher elevations (single digit temps Thursday and Friday nights). Sunshine will be overhead Friday through Sunday with temps warming to normal levels by the end of the weekend. Lastly, we are also watching with interest an early week system that could bring us another round of rain/snow Sunday night into Monday.
Since this discussion is posted earlier than usual (7am), we'll throw today's forecast in the mix and what a start we are having, with very strong winds across the area, currently gusting to 40 - 50mph across the higher elevations. Strong NW winds will take most of the day to wind down, with peak wind speeds occurring before the late morning hours, all under sunny skies that will push temps to the upper 30's - low 50's depending upon elevation. As winds calm down this evening under clear skies temps will be able to dip into the mid 20's for the valleys, while the ridgelines hold to the low 30's.
Wednesday will be our last fair weather day and if you have plans to travel, it would make for an easier trip to leave tomorrow as opposed to Christmas Eve to avoid the moderate - heavy rainfall, especially if your plans take you to places like Highlands, Cashiers, Lake Toxaway and so on. Temps Wednesday push into the low 40's - low 50's depending upon elevation under more sunshine, however high clouds will move in during the mid - late afternoon hours as we transition to southeasterly flow throughout the day. Light rain will begin to fall along the escarpment as soon as the late evening hours but for the rest of SW NC it will take till the pre dawn hours for rain to arrive, with overnight lows settling into the mid 30's - low 40's; all rain overnight into Thursday.
Christmas Eve will be a soggy day as SW NC picks up anywhere from 1 - 3" of rain depending upon location. Those closer to the SC state line will come close to the 3" mark, while those closer to the TN line only pick up an inch. Temps warm to the upper 30's - low 50's once again, but this time they'll peak much sooner, especially for those who live above 3500'. By midday rain will kick over to snow above 5500' and begin to work its way down in elevation, with snow falling across the valley floor shortly before or after sunset. This is also the same window of time in which the bulk of our precip will be sliding east, however enough moisture lingers in the following NW flow that we'll see scattered to widespread snow showers across SW NC during the evening hours. Coverage will slowly scale back to the TN line as the night moves along, leaving behind a dusting up to an inch for most of the region (a "White Christmas" is technically 1" of snow on the ground before midnight on Christmas Day). For those who pick up snow during NW flow events when others only experience flurries, this event is likely to drop an inch or two more for your location, with places like Cataloochee Ski Area expected to pick up 2" by sunrise on Christmas Day. For all the hype surrounding snow on Christmas Eve/Day, we tend to overlook the cold temps as this will be our coldest day of the season with overnight lows dipping into the single digits - mid teens Christmas Eve night, only warming to the mid teens - mid 20's on Christmas Day. Even with sunshine overhead all day on Friday, NW winds will be brutal, holding steady around 15 - 20mph and gusting up to 30 - 40mph across the higher elevations, setting up sub zero wind chills for the higher elevations. Temps bottom out to the single digits above 4500' Christmas night, while the valleys settle into the mid teens under clear skies, while at the same time NW winds will begin to relax across the region.
Saturday and Sunday keep sunny skies alive and temps will respond to increasing heights aloft, reaching the mid 30's - mid 40's on Saturday and upper 30's - low 50's by Sunday. We'll stop here and likely do a short update tomorrow morning to capture any changes to the forecast. Our SNOWCAST Map will come out closer to noon today (Tuesday) to allow us more time to fine tune the map.