While Wednesday brought a taste of snowfall to the Asheville area, the bulk of this week’s winter weather is yet to come.
The National Weather Service warns of a “major winter storm, expected tonight through Saturday,” in effect from 7 p.m. this evening, Thursday, Jan. 21, through 7 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 23.
As Winter Storm Jonas moves through the area, rain is expected late Thursday night, until around 1 a.m., turning to sleet, and then sleet mixed with snow after 3 a.m. The NWS predicts a snow/sleet accumulation in Asheville of 1-2 inches.
On Friday, snow is expected until 2 p.m., turning to a sleet and snow mixture between 2-4 p.m., with freezing rain to follow. Wind is expected to pick up to around 10-13 miles per hour, with gusts as high as 20 miles per hour. In Asheville, new ice accumulation of less than 0.1-inch possible, with new snow and sleet accumulations of 4 to 8 inches. The freezing rain is expected to return to snow at nightfall (with another 1 to 3 inches of accumulation possible), with winds calming after midnight.
On Saturday, snow is likely, with winds picking back up.
Because of the severity of ice, sleet and snow accumulations, Governor Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency for much of North Carolina.
“Given the snow and ice accumulations that are predicted, combined with gusty winds and already saturated grounds, this storm has serious potential,” McCrory said in a press release. “Ice accumulations of one quarter inch or more can weaken tree limbs and lead to downed power lines. Needless to say, we’re watching this storm very carefully.”
The press release continues: “The storm system moving into the state later today is expected to bring another 8 to 18 inches of snow across much of the mountains; 4 to 8 inches of snow plus 1/4 inch of ice across the Triad; 1 to 4 inches of snow plus 1/4 to 1/2 inch of ice across the Triangle; and 2 to 4 inches of snow with an additional 1/4 to 4/10 inch of ice in the Charlotte region. Eastern and coastal counties are expected to get mostly rain with perhaps a mix of freezing rain.”
Late Thursday afternoon, Buncombe County declared a state of emergency in line with the state: “In anticipation of as much as 19 inches of snow in Buncombe County between Thursday, Jan. 21 and Saturday, Jan. 23, it is the judgment of Buncombe County Emergency Management personnel that arrangements must be made immediately to implement plans for the prevention of, preparation for, response to, and recovery from any and all emergency situations that may result from the impacts of this storm.”
Heavy snow and ice could make travel dangerous tonight through Saturday, warns the NWS, and heavy snow accumulation with gusty winds could result in power outages.
Keep in mind the supplies you may need in case of an outage, should one occur in your area: Take the time to locate flashlights and/or lanterns — and be careful of candles, as they can easily tip over and start a fire. If you own a generator, be sure to never operate it indoors, inside the garage or near the air intake of your home, due to risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
During ice storms, trees and large branches can fall on your home. Avoid parts of your
home that could be hit by falling trees or limbs and do not stand under trees if you venture outside, the NWS warns.
While we still have sunny skies, you may also want to venture to the store for rock salt or sand to spread on walkways and steps.
Most importantly, “heavy snow and ice storms make travel highly treacherous, if not impossible,” reads the NWS warning. “It is far better to remain at home than to venture out into a winter storm. If you must travel, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk of injury or death. Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Check your windshield wipers and keep you washer fluid full. Carry extra weight, such as sand bags, in the trunk of your car or bed of your truck, particularly if you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle.
“Stay on main roads. Realize that steep or hilly sections of roadway could become very slippery and treacherous,” the release continues. “Slow down, turn, brake and accelerate gradually. Leave plenty of room between you and the other vehicles. Be particularly careful on ramps, bridges and overpasses.”
Wintery conditions in North Carolina already caused two weather-related fatalities this week, late on Wednesday. A Forsyth County woman died after she lost control of her car on a sleet and snow-covered road and struck another vehicle head on. In Stokes County, a woman died after she lost control of her car on a snow-covered road and ended up in a creek.
“As we’ve already seen, these conditions can be treacherous,” said Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry, in the McCrory press release. “If you can stay off the roads when the frozen precipitation begins, please do. If you must be out, we can’t overemphasize the importance of following safe driving tips.”
NCDOT crews have already spread more than 1.1 million gallons of brine, a salt and water solution which prevents ice from bonding to the roadways.
All state highway patrol troopers are on standby, 15 teams of National Guard soldiers in Humvees are positioned across Western and Central North Carolina to assist stranded motorists, chain saw crews are on standby to quickly clear blocked roadways and the NCDOT has staged extra equipment and personnel near typical travel trouble spots along I-77 in Surry County, I-40 in McDowell County and I-26 in Polk and Henderson counties.