Sunny Mon - Wed; Christmas Eve/Day Snow!?!
Good morning folks! There were a handful of reports of freezing rain and snow across Highlands and Cashiers this morning but with temps rising at the surface and aloft all precip will fall as rain the rest of the day. Isolated showers will pepper the region the rest of the afternoon and this evening, with a gradual drying trend as we start the holiday week on Monday. Sunshine will be overhead on Monday and with a tightening pressure gradient from a nearby trough, it will be quite windy with westerly winds around 20mph, gusting to 40 - 50mph across the higher elevations. Fair weather continues into Tuesday with winds dying down and we'll squeeze in one more quiet weather day on Wednesday before conditions change early in the day on Christmas Eve. Exact timing is not set in stone for the Christmas Eve - Christmas Day event but we are seeing a rough outline as to when the front will swing through, how much rain may fall and the potential for snow on the backside of the system. For those wishing for snow, the chance has increased slightly but we are still looking at a NW flow snow event, not a regionwide event like we all enjoyed back in 2010. The other notable impact from this event will be the colder temps as they are likely to be the coldest of the season, with all of SW NC under the freezing mark on Christmas Day, likely extending into next weekend for those who live above 3000'.
We'll start out the discussion on Monday and for late December the weather will be ideal as temps warm to the upper 30's - low 50's across the region under sunny skies. NW winds will increase as the day moves along, with strong winds across the region by the early - mid afternoon hours (15 - 25mph), peaking later that night with wind speeds around 20mph for most of the region, gusting to 40 - 50mph across the higher elevations. Clear skies sit overhead Monday, minus a few clouds and flurries along the TN line before noon, with temps dipping into the mid 20's - low 30's depending upon elevation.
Don't forget to step out outside about 30 - 45minutes after sunset and look southwest. You will see the Jupiter and Saturn so close they'll appear as a bright start (also called the "Christmas Star"). This hasn't happened in over 400 years but that was during the day and the really mind blowing factoid is that its been over 700 years since anyone has seen this at night! Don't miss out on this once in a lifetime view, but do know they will continue to remain close over the next several days, with their closest conjunction occurring Monday night (Winter Solstice). Back to the weather...
Tuesday and Wednesday both keep the fair weather train moving along with sunshine overhead both days. Westerly winds will die down during the morning hours on Tuesday to a light breeze the rest of the day. With sunny skies overhead both days, temps will warm to the upper 30's - low 50's depending upon elevation. Overnight lows dip into the mid 20's across the valleys Tuesday night, while the ridgelines settle into the low 30's due to radiational cooling under clear skies with little to no wind. Wednesday night is a different story. The models point to southerly flow ramping up across our portion of the state late Wednesday as the front nears the area, setting the stage for scattered showers later that night and all precip will fall as rain for the lower elevations, with a quick round of snow above 4500', but even this will turn to rain as warm air aloft moves in past midnight. Overnight lows Wednesday night settle into the mid - upper 30's.
Rain will be sliding across the region on Christmas Eve (Thursday) and be heavy at times for the escarpment region, but not heavy enough for Highlands to break the state annual rainfall record; 6.09" needed to tie the record of 139.94". It looks like several inches of rain will fall across SW NC from Wednesday night throughout the day on Christmas Eve as the front swings through the region. Temps on Christmas Eve will reach the low 40's - low 50's depending upon elevation but for the higher elevations, this high reading will likely occur before midday, with temps falling as we move through the afternoon hours. As colder air chases the exiting moisture we will see temps crashing during the late afternoon hours, allowing rain to changeover to snow for the higher elevations (at this time rain/snow line looks to be around 3500' - 4000'). The rub with this system is that the bulk of the moisture will exit the region by the time the snow line falls to the valley floor (later Thursday evening). As the front exits to the east Thursday night, NW flow will take over and for now moisture availability looks strong enough to deliver scattered snow showers across all of SW NC. How far south and how much coverage remains our biggest question at this time but for those who live in the favored NW flow locations, this looks to be a great setup for accumulating snow Thursday night into Friday late morning. Temps Thursday night plummet to the low - mid teens above 3500', while the valleys hold to the mid - upper 20's with a strong NW wind. Temps only warm to the mid 20's - low 30's on Friday across the region and snowfall will wind down before midday for most of SW NC, however NW flow snow lingers along the TN line into the evening hours.
Saturday and Sunday look sunny and cold but we will stop here and circle back on Tuesday with a detailed timeline for the Christmas Eve - Christmas Day event, including expected rain and snow totals for the region and a SNOWCAST Map!