Regionwide Snow Thur PM - Fri AM!!!
Good morning folks! Moderate snow is falling along the TN line this morning and our previous forecast of light accumulations will fall well under actual totals, with upwards of 3 - 5" in the Smokies and 1 - 2" in places like Cataloochee Ski Area. We'll see some flurries this afternoon as we transition to NW flow, with temps right around normal for early January. Clouds clear tonight and set the stage for a mostly sunny Wednesday with temps in the upper 40's - low 50's across the valleys, alongside NW winds calming down before midday.
All eyes are on the Thursday - Friday snow event but don't forget about the chance for snow Monday - Tuesday of next week. The global setup has become extremely conducive for snow across the Carolinas as of late and will continue over the next few weeks, setting the stage for many more wintry precip events. We are roughly 3 days out from the main event, with precip expected to fall as early as Thursday late evening - pre dawn hours on Friday but many things can and will change between now and then. It looks like enough cold air will be in place for all precip to fall as snow across SW NC, however the deeper valleys may struggle for a few hours with a rain/snow mix before kicking over to all snow by sunrise Friday. This chance for snow is brought to us by a passing upper level low and its track will determine where and when the moderate - heavy snow rates will occur and we will not know this till 24 - 36 hours out. With this in mind we are calling for accumulating snow regionwide Thursday night into Friday morning, but how much and exactly where remains the biggest question. If we had to put money down this morning on how much SW NC will pick up, we would say anywhere from 2 - 4" is a decent possibility for the populated areas (valleys), with much higher amounts along the Great Balsams and Smokies. We are holding back on the SNOWCAST Map till late this afternoon to give the models one more run cycle to help iron out some details.
In the meantime, plan for a mostly cloudy start to the day on Thursday with temps reaching the upper 30's - upper 40's depending upon elevation. Moisture levels will creep up as the day progresses and the upper level low inches closer to the region. There should be no travel issues on Thursday, even for the ride home around 4 - 6pm as precip should hold off till the late evening hours. Temps will fall into the mid 20's above 5000' overnight into Friday, while the valleys slowly and painfully drop to the low 30's just before sunrise. Our deeper and sheltered valleys like Cullowhee, Bryson City, and Sylva - Dillsboro will likely be the last to dip below freezing and this could lead to a lower snow total if mixing were to occur at the onset of precip. Other valleys that are less sheltered like Franklin and Andrews will likely fair better and as we look east into Haywood County, there should be no issue with a rain/snow mix as most of the central valley in Waynesville/Hazelwood is well above the 2000' rain/snow line.
Precip will ramp up to regionwide just before sunrise and we'll all be waking up to a snow globe view Friday morning with moderate - heavy snow rates. We advise folks plan ahead and cancel any travel plans you may have for Friday morning, especially if you plan to drive over Cowee, Soco, or Balsam gaps. Snow will fall the rest of the morning hours on Friday and we'll pick up the 2 - 4" of snow before midday (heavy rates at times). The upper level low departs to the east late in the day, transitioning flow to NW flow across the region and this will keep snow falling along and nearby the TN line, with several more inches likely for the favored NW Flow snow locations. One interesting possibility is along the Southern Highlands Plateau, specifically for locations above 3800' - 4000' (Highlands, Cashiers, Lake Toxaway, Panthertown, etc.) as the models point to moisture banking against the escarpment with higher precip amounts than the rest of SW NC. This could lead to a sliver of much higher totals along the escarpment and up the Great Balsams (also could bode well for southern Haywood County). Temps Friday only hit the upper 20's - upper 30's and once NW flow takes over, windy conditions will ensue with NW winds around 15 - 25mph. Overnight lows dip into the low - upper 20's depending upon elevation, with a slow and gradual end to NW flow snow showers and clearing skies.
The weekend ahead will be sunny with temps in the mid - upper 30's above 4000', while the valleys warm to the upper 40's both Saturday and Sunday. We'll stop here and circle back Wednesday morning with another update, fine tuning the expected snow totals and perhaps adjusting the timeline as needed. SNOWCAST Map comes out late this afternoon.