Snow? It’s not a flaky idea

Jan. 16, 2013 @ 05:03 PM

The week that started out with spring-like temperatures is likely to end up with a white coating.
Yes, just days after highs in the 70s, we’re likely to get some snow tonight and into Friday morning.
“It’s a little screwy, but there’s a fairly good likelihood we’re going to see a period of wet snow starting this evening,” said Jonathan Blaes, a meteorologist with the Raleigh office of the National Weather Service.
But before you race out to the grocery store to empty the shelves of milk, water and bread, Blaes adds this:
“Right now, it looks like it’s not going to have a big impact and there won’t be much of an accumulation. You might see it on the tops of cars and on lawns and decks, but probably not on roadways.”
Still, Blaes said, there is a chance it might be more than that — and to be sure, the weather service has issued a winter storm watch for this evening.
“The situation is still pretty fluid,” he acknowledged. “The duration [of the snowfall] and how heavy it’s going to be really remains unclear. A lot of things have to come together to have a big impact, and that’s not out of the question. But it’s really a small possibility.”
What forecasters do know for certain is that today is going to be wet — a 100-percent chance of precipitation — as a developing storm system heads into the area from the west.
As that system shifts to the east, and colder air moves into the region later today, that’s when we’ll start seeing flakes. A band of heavier snow will be just to the north and west of the Triangle — “and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that stronger band could move into the Triangle,” Blaes said. 
Whatever accumulation there is shouldn’t be around for too long, with high temperatures for Friday getting up into the mid-40s. But Friday morning could prove — in Blaes’ words — fairly screwy.
“At daybreak, we might see temperatures below freezing, and that might promote some roadway freezing for the morning commute,” he said. “There’s potential for it to be fairly screwy.”
The state Highway Patrol is already offering advice on how to deal with slick wintry roads.
“You never know when to expect black ice, snow, icy roads or a mixture of road conditions,” said First Sgt. Jeff Gordon, the public information officer.
The patrol recommends increasing the distance between vehicles, clearing all windows prior to travel, using extra caution on bridges and overpasses and avoiding using cruise control, among other suggestions.
And some local schools are preparing, just in case. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will make an announcement about 5 a.m. Friday in the unlikely event weather requires a schedule change. Durham Public Schools hasn’t made a decision yet.
While your commute might be a mess Friday morning, the good news from all the precipitation is that it will help our water supply.
Although local reservoirs are full — and Durham currently has enough water for 362 days, even if there’s no rain at all — the U.S. Drought Monitor still considers the region to be in “moderate drought.”
“It’s not the lakes that’s the problem,” Blaes said. “It’s streams that flow into the lakes and groundwater, which are both below normal. We’re still in a vulnerable spot and a good, heavy rain could help.”