WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A winter storm moving out of the Gulf will overspread rain into cold air Friday, allowing for heavy snow, freezing rain and sleet for central and western North Carolina. Along the coast, heavy rain and gusty winds will be the extent of the impacts, with the possibility of a wintry mix briefly as the system exits Saturday evening.
Winter Storm Warnings are posted for parts of North Carolina from the Triad and counties to the north and west. Heavy snow is falling in parts of the Piedmont and the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. A mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain began Friday around noon and will continue through Saturday morning. Winter Weather Advisories cover the Triangle. High Surf Advisories are in effect for the coastal communities with east-facing beaches.
Rain began Friday afternoon along the coast, moving in from the south. In western NC the precipitation began as snow, sleet and freezing rain. By Saturday, a coastal low will continue the breezy, cold rain along the coastal counties, with heavy snow possible in the Piedmont. On the back side of the system, a transition to a rain/snow mix is possible, especially along I-95. By that time though, most of the moisture will have moved away.
Snow chances have diminished from the Cape Fear forecast, as the moisture will have retreated by the time cold air moves in.
Behind the system temperatures are expected to drop further. Lows in the mid 20's can be expected overnight during the beginning of next week. Any snowfall left on the ground tends to further cool the surrounding areas in the following days.
The system comes a week before the 20 year anniversary of the blizzard that struck on December 23-24, 1989. That storm brought 15 to 20 inches of snow to Brunswick, Bladen, New Hanover, Pender and Columbus Counties. This resulted in a white Christmas for the area and the lowest temperatures on record for Wilmington. Due to a hefty snow pack and clear nights following the storm, the temperature dropped to 0 degrees F.
In the long-term forecast another strong system is on the horizon for the Carolinas, right around Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.