Regionwide Snow Sunday Night; COLD Monday
Good morning folks! This past month has been more like spring than winter but today (Sunday) we flip the script as we go from the 60's earlier in the day across the valleys to the low 50's shortly after sunset, bottoming out to the teens and 20's by sunrise on Monday. Everyone's focus is on the upcoming snow and rightfully so as it has been quite some time since we saw snow fall or accumulate, especially in the valleys. I need to preface this discussion with a few take homes so they are not lost in the detailed discussion.
This event will be elevation dependent, the big winners will be those who live above 4500'. Folks in the valleys will see snow fall (if you stay up till 11pm - 4am), but accumulations will be tough to come by.
The event has varying outcomes on the models, not all of them are a lock for a regionwide event and our SNOWCAST map shown above is the middle line between low and high end possibilities.
Most of the accumulating snow will occur in a 1 - 2 hour window during the pre dawn hours.
Accumulations on roadways will be tough, same for any ground surfaces with soil temps abnormally high for early January. That being said, if you are able to wait till sunrise to commute to work, do so to ensure you can see any hazardous conditions and stop/turn around in time.
The Snowbird, Unicoi, Great Smoky, and Cowee mountains, including the Plott Balsams, Cataloochee Divide, and Great Balsams, all stand a chance at picking up 6 - 10" of snow (above 5000').
Remember, when we call for a half inch of snow, this this is an extremely tough forecast. One degree too warm and its all rain, one degree colder or perhaps stronger rates, we could see as high as 2". The lower the possible total, the harder the forecast, whereas the higher end ranges like 4 - 6" are easier to forecast. Keep this in mind as you find your location on the SNOWCAST map.
Potential losers - Bryson City, Robbinsville, Andrews, Murphy, Franklin. These locations may end up with nothing in the worst case scenario.
Check out other weather outlets for their accumulation forecasts. We are in line with the NWS GSP but some outlets are betting the farm and going higher, I tend to stay conservative as I've been burned many times with Upper Level Low events like this one.
Takes homes aside, let's jump into the details. Temps will soar to the upper 50's - low 60's this afternoon, while the front that brought us 0.75 - 1.5" of rain last night continues to move east of the region. We'll experience cloudy skies all day with scattered light showers across the entire region, dropping another 0.15 - 0.25" of rain before we kick over to snow. Temps above 5000' will only make it to the upper 40's and begin to crash above this line shortly after sunset, likely kicking rain to snow by 7 - 9pm. An upper level low, coupled with ample high level energy, will spawn a low pressure system along the front later this evening. This low pressure system will slide just below our area and as it does so, colder air will wrap into the region, kicking rain over to snow for all of SW NC. It may take till midnight or as late as 2 - 3am for snow levels to reach the valley floor, but the one thing going for us low elevation folks is that a window of moderate - heavy snowfall will occur during the pre dawn hours, lasting for 1 - 2 hours and this is when we will see accumulations occur regionwide. For the higher elevations above 3500', accumulations are likely an hour or so after the transition from rain to snow occurs, so a good portion of the event total will come from before and after the intense band of snow. That being said, as this band of higher rates swings through the region, many higher elevation locations will be hammered by intense rates and this is why we are calling for 6 - 8" or more for certain ridgelines above 5000'; see SNOWCAST map.
Most of the action will be off to our east as we wake up Monday morning, with regionwide snowfall over before 7am, while NW flow snowfall occurs along the TN line and favored ridgelines through 9 - 11am. Cataloochee Ski Area should pick up 3" but has potential to see as high as 4 - 6". This on top of the snowmaking conditions they will certainly take advantage of, will all together ensure the best runs of the season on Monday.
Monday will be brutal, not because it will be record breaking cold but because we haven't seen temps like this in quite a while, coming off a stretch of 60s and 70's the past few weeks. Highs Monday only reach the upper 30's in the valleys, while the higher elevations above 4500' only make it to the upper 20's. Throw in NW winds around 10 - 25mph and wind chills will be in the single digits (above 5000') and 20's most of the day, even as mostly sunny skies sit overhead. Overnight lows settle into the low - upper teens under clear skies, with NW winds gradually dying down to a light breeze around midnight.
Tuesday into Wednesday show near normal conditions with highs in the upper 20's - upper 40's depending upon elevation, under mostly sunny skies Tuesday and increasing clouds Wednesday. The uptick in cloud cover Wednesday is a precursor to the next event on Thursday, which may be a light rain/snow event depending upon elevation. Either way we expect near normal temps to continue into Friday, with a third round of precip showing up on the models next weekend. We'll stop here and circle back Monday late morning with an event breakdown and look at the mid week event. ENJOY!