A winter storm is gathering strength over the south-central United States and is focused on the Southern Appalachians and southern Mid-Atlantic this weekend.
Significant snowfall and/or mixed precipitation is expected from southwestern Virginia through western and central North Carolina into northwestern South Carolina, but exact amounts will depend on the eventual storm track and temperatures.
The closer you are to the high elevations of western North Carolina, the more likely you are to witness heavy snowfall. But enough snow and/or wintry mix is likely over a broader area to cause disruption over the weekend, whether or not it’s enough to unleash the plows and break out the sleds.
Below, we provide a detailed look at what different population centers in this region might expect.
This storm seems to be turning into something of a North Carolina special. As is often the case, elevation will matter when it comes to snowfall. But even east of the mountains, this will be a notable winter storm in some locations.
Greenville, S.C. — On the southern edge of the snow accumulation zone, a prolonged mix of wintry weather is on the way. From Friday night through Sunday night, this area could be a leader in total precipitation from the storm. While about an inch of wintry mix is likely to accumulate in the city, where temperatures are expected to hover near or above freezing, accumulation rapidly increases to six to 12 inches or more heading into the mountains to the north.
Charlotte — Precipitation arrives during the day on Saturday, probably starting as rain before changing to snow Saturday night. While snow becomes dominant overnight, it may transition to a wintry mix. Accumulation will vary widely in this area from a few inches in the city to as much as a foot nearby to the northwest.
Asheville, N.C. — Near the heart of expected accumulations from this storm, snow — perhaps briefly mixed with rain — starts midday Saturday and persists heavily at times through Sunday. Some snow showers may even be around into Monday. A winter storm warning starts Saturday evening, when the heaviest snow starts to kick in, and the Weather Service expects 10 to 16 inches of snowfall in this area.
Raleigh, N.C. — Uncertainty about wintry weather increases into this region. The Interstate-95 corridor is something of a demarcation line between higher and lower snow potential. Raleigh is in the middle. Rain, sleet and snow begin by Saturday evening, with a wintry mix likely to continue through the night into Sunday morning. A few inches of wintry mix are possible here.
Greensboro, N.C. — Farther west and more elevated than Raleigh, Greensboro is expected to see a snowier scenario. Here, the storm may be mostly snow, picking up in intensity late Saturday and lasting through much of Sunday. About five to 10 inches can be expected around this area, although there is potential for less, as the city sits closer to the northern edge of the snow shield.
The short story for Virginia is that the whole state is very much on the edge for this one. While odds of accumulating snow are better in the south, it is not necessarily guaranteed anywhere.
Blacksburg — The mountainous area of southwestern Virginia has big snow potential with this event, but also a higher risk of something akin to a snow bust when compared with places south. Snow should start overnight Saturday and potentially last through a good chunk of Sunday. Some newer weather modeling keeps most of the snow south of the area, so while expectations are that about six to 12 inches falls here, it could be considerably less.
Roanoke — Snow is the dominant precipitation type expected in and around Roanoke. It could snow through the day on Sunday as long as the snow shield doesn’t stay to the south. In a snowier scenario, four to eight inches seems most probable.
Lynchburg — As you get this far north, the forecast becomes even more uncertain. Although winter storm watches make it into the area, the potential for heavy snow appears somewhat unlikely. About one to three inches may fall, most of it coming Sunday. As little as a coating can’t be ruled out if the main snow band edges south.
Richmond — Much like Lynchburg to the west, Richmond seems to want to miss most of the precipitation with this one. It’ll also be warmer and more likely to see snow mixing with rain when the storm arrives Sunday afternoon. A wild card here might be that snow could linger into the night, when accumulation prospects would be better. A coating to a few inches is a reasonable forecast.
Charlottesville — It’s plenty cold enough for accumulating snow, and some should be in the air Sunday. Getting enough moisture this far north for accumulation is a big question mark, although maybe up to an inch could fall.
The D.C. region
It’s largely a nonevent for this part of the Mid-Atlantic, but some folks could see a few flakes.
Southern suburbs — This part of the area may see conversational snowflakes, meaning some in the air but probably not a whole lot more. The best chance for snowflakes is between midday and early evening on Sunday.
Washington — We can’t rule out errant snowflakes in the city. Prepare for the hunt; it is going to be a tough one. For more snow than this, it would take a major short-term shift in track, which is extremely unlikely at this point.
Northern suburbs — Washington’s northern suburbs may see only high clouds for much of Sunday. A nice sunset to cap it all off?