Snow, sleet, freezing rain in forecast

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Meteorologists at the National Weather Service office in Raleigh are calling for a mixed bag of winter weather as the weekend approaches.

Residents of Harnett County are more likely to see a wintry mix of freezing rain and sleet, than they are snow, Meteorologist Tom Green told The Daily Record Wednesdsay morning.

Green says predictions call for rain Thursday ahead of the winter precipitation starting Friday morning and lingering into Saturday. Friday’s high temperature is set to top out at 29 degrees with a low of 22.

“It looks like it’s going to become a mixed bag,” Green said. “At this point it’s hard to say exactly what type of precipitation you would have late Thursday night into Friday morning.”

While many are hoping to see snow, Green said the chances are higher for 1 to 2 inches of sleet on Friday.

“If it ends up being snow or something else the (amounts) could be something else,” he said. “At this point we’re going mainly with sleet during the day on Friday.”

Forecasters say the wintry mix will likely continue Friday evening into early Saturday morning with the bulk of the precipitation finishing by sunrise. Saturday’s high temperature is set to reach 36.

The NWS issued a winter storm watch for Harnett and surrounding counties Tuesday night. The watch calls for 2 to 5 inches of snow possible in eastern North Carolina.

“A watch is when we think conditions are going to be favorable, so that’s something we typically try to issue about 48 hours in advance,” Green said. “A warning is when we think there’s at least an 80% chance we are going to have those conditions develop.”

Green noted the current snowfall prediction is a “broad forecast” over the 31 counties the Raleigh bureau is responsible for overseeing. He said the current estimates of snowfall doesn’t necessarily apply to any one location.

“At this point it looks like the highest snowfall totals would be north and east of Raleigh,” Green said. “When we talk about total accumulation, we talk about snow and sleet together. Then freezing rain is it’s own accumulation.”

As for the freezing rain, Green said the amount would be minimal, less than a half an inch.

“If I look at our map, overall, we have about three inches of snow and sleet accumulation in Dunn.”

The low pressure system is expected to move across the Gulf of Mexico, then head up the eastern seaboard, coming along the Carolina coast.

“That’s still the $54 million question at this point, how far inland or how far off the coast it is,” he said. “That’s still the thing we’re trying to nail down.”

If the storm is farther out to sea, there will be less frozen precipitation ­— sleet and freezing rain — than if it tracks more inland, according to Green.

He said if the system does track more inland, the wintry mix could be less.

“If the low tracks closer to the coast, that ends up bringing warmer air to the area,” he said. “So that ends up increasing the chance we would have more sleet and freezing rain.”

Rick Curl can be reached at rcurl@mydailyrecord.com or 910-230-2038.

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