Staff and wire reports
North Carolina received its first significant sign of winter Thursday as a low pressure system merged with cold air to dump snow from the mountains to the piedmont.
As of 9 p.m., light snow was reported in Jefferson in northwest North Carolina, and to the south in Hickory.
Snow mixed with ran was observed from near the South Carolina line in Cleveland County through Cherryville, Lincolnton and Maiden, allowing for light accumulations in some areas before most snowfall stopped around 10:30 p.m.
It was uncertain as of press time this morning how the weather event would affect road conditions in the area, but temperatures were expected to be well above freezing during the day on Friday.
With Lincoln County schools already closed for a teacher work day, the impact may be less than it typically would be on a weekday. Word on closings by other area schools and colleges, businesses and government organizations was not available at press time.
Snow was also reported in the Triad as well as the Research Triangle area. Most locations to the south were getting rain.
The National Weather Service also reported thundersnow in the Triad, where snow was reported to be falling at the rate of more than an inch an hour at one point.
Weather forecasters called for snow across much of the state late Thursday, with as much as 9 inches in the northwestern mountains and 2 inches in northeastern counties near the Virginia border. And while snow had begun falling in Jefferson and Morganton in the west in the early afternoon, in the southeast, Wilmington reported a high of 78 degrees and Beaufort recorded a high of 71.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for central North Carolina for Thursday and into Friday morning. A flood watch was also in effect for western counties with rain expected for the mountains and foothills.
Forecasters said the low pressure system was to track to the northeast and off the coast overnight. High pressure would build in to bring clear skies beginning Friday. They also warned that because skies would clear rapidly, slushy roads and temperatures in the upper 20s could create black ice conditions.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Blaes said two-thirds of the state should see some wet snow, with most accumulations expected along the interior piedmont. Blaes said the storm will be intense, but not for very long.
“When the rain changes to snow, it probably won’t last more than two, three, four hours,” he said. “It’s probably going to snow hard for brief periods of time. It just won’t last terribly long.”
Heavy rains preceded the winter weather in the mountains, and that triggered at least 56 small landslides. N.C. Department of Transportation engineer Joel Setzer said Thursday that the approaching snow won’t likely cause any more slides.
“The slides are mainly caused because the soil absorbs all this moisture and becomes almost plastic in a way,” Setzer said. “It loses its cohesiveness and it’s heavier. The snow weight on top should not be an exacerbating factor. It’s the rain that’s the problem.”
Setzer said rockslides could be the next problem as water fills seams in the rock structure, then freezes. Thawing increases the risk of rockslides, he said.
Managing Editor Frank Taylor and the Associated Press contributed to this report.