Snow and ice slam parts of North Carolina on Sunday. Here’s the forecast

Julia Wall/
·5 min read

Snow and ice are blanketing parts of North Carolina on Sunday, Jan. 16, as a winter storm moves through the region.

Much of the state is under a winter storm warning as of the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service, while some northeastern parts of the state are under a winter weather advisory.

A winter storm warning is issued when “heavy snow of at least 6 inches in 12 hours, or at least 8 inches in 24 hours, is expected” or when “sleet accumulation will be at least half an inch.” A winter weather advisory indicates that 3-5 inches of snow, less than 0.5 inches of sleet, freezing rain with sleet or snow or “blowing snow” are possible.

More than 70,000 North Carolina residents were without power as of 5:25 p.m. Jan. 16, according to officials.

Gov. Roy Cooper during a news conference urged residents to stay home and off the roads, The News & Observer reported. For those who have to go out, he advised driving slowly, increasing your following distance behind other cars and scraping any snow or ice off your vehicle before driving.

If you absolutely must drive: Here’s how to clear your windshield and driveway

The mountains and western North Carolina should bear the brunt of the storm.

In the mountains, the winter storm warning remains in effect until 8 a.m. Monday, Jan. 17. A “heavy mixed precipitation” was impacting the area with additional accumulations of up to 4 inches and a “light glaze” of snow possible, the NWS said at 3 p.m. Wind gusts were reaching up to 45 mph.

“Snow and sleet will begin tapering off this evening in most areas, although snow showers are expected to linger along the Tennessee border into Monday morning,” the weather service said. “Widespread black ice should be expected Monday morning, and may be a concern into the middle of the week. DOT asks persons to stay off roads unless absolutely necessary.”

The NWS warned that traveling may be difficult or impossible and that power outages and tree damage are likely.

The National Park Service wrote on Facebook that more than 8 inches of snow were reported at Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the morning of Jan. 16.

“Snowy conditions across the North Carolina side of the park and above 3,500 feet in Tennessee,” the park service wrote. “With more hazardous weather on the way, please exercise caution if venturing out.”

The NPS also posted that the entire Blue Ridge Parkway is closed because of ice and snow.

“Visitors are encouraged to avoid the parkway until the storm passes for their own safety and that of emergency personnel throughout our region,” the park service wrote. “High winds and heavy snow are expected today, creating hazardous conditions.”

In the “Piedmont and western North Carolina,” including the Charlotte area, the winter storm warning remains in effect until midnight, the NWS said. Forecasters said at 3 p.m. that an additional inch of snow accumulations is possible along with “around one tenth of an inch of ice.”

“Precipitation will continue to change back to snow and sleet through the afternoon. The precipitation should taper off this evening. Black ice could be a problem each morning early next week. DOT asks persons to stay off roads unless absolutely necessary.

The Charlotte area saw less ice accumulation than expected, The Charlotte Observer reported. But forecasters say there remains a “strong potential” for black ice on the roads overnight and into Jan. 17. More than 1,200 flights have been canceled at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

The winter storm warning also remains in effect for parts of central North Carolina until midnight.

The NWS Raleigh office tweeted early on Jan. 16 that “light snow flurries” were reported in some areas. The office tweeted later in the morning that “wintry precipitation” was continuing across the area.

“Snow and sleet falling across the Triad with freezing rain from the Triangle to the Coastal Plain. Expect much of the same through mid afternoon,” it wrote.

It said ice accumulations were ”starting to increase across the NC Sandhills,” with the totals reaching 0.18 inches.

The region is expected to see “additional mixed precipitation,” the NWS said around 4 p.m.

“Total ice accumulations from freezing rain of two tenths to three tenths of an inch, with locally higher amounts,” the weather service said. “Total snow accumulations 1 to 2 inches, with isolated higher amounts, most of which has already fallen. Winds gusting as high as 40 mph.”

Travel challenges

In the Triangle, less than an inch of snow accumulation was expected in most areas, but forecasters expected “significant ice” and strong winds will make travel dangerous and lead to power outages, The News & Observer reported.

For those who do need to go out in the storm, the NWS recommends keeping an extra flashlight, food and water in the vehicle in case of an emergency.

As of 3:30 p.m. Jan. 16, many flights departing from or arriving at Raleigh-Durham International Airport had been canceled, according to The N&O. Some bus services in the Triangle had also been suspended, and Interstate 95 near Fayetteville had closed in both directions due to low-hanging power lines and a damaged utility poll.

In portions of northeastern North Carolina, snow and “mixed precipitation” is possible, including a trace of snow and a “light glaze” of ice, the weather service said. The winter weather advisory is in effect until 6 p.m. Jan. 16.

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