COPY-2-4 inches of snow forecast for Christmas in Charlotte region

By Jeff Rivenbark - email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - If you're dreaming of a white Christmas, there is a chance that your wish may just come true because much of our area, including the Charlotte metro, is expected to see snow this holiday weekend.

For many days, forecasters have been uncertain about what will happen. But now, they agree that snow will fall on Christmas Day -- and a Winter Weather Advisory has been issued for some counties in the Piedmont and a Winter Weather Watch for some mountain counties.

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"Colder air that came in Thursday has set the stage for widespread snow across the Carolinas Christmas Day," said WBTV meteorologist Jim Lytle.

If we get an inch or more of snow, it would be our first snowfall on Christmas Day since 1947 when 5 to 6 inches of snow fell. Right now, estimates are for 2-4 inches of snow in Charlotte and most of the Piedmont areas. A bit less is expected in the mountains.

Lytle said that the system responsible for most snow had been seeming to move away from the Carolina's coast. But now, it's trending a closer, which would mean more certainty for snow and possibly more earlier 2 to 4 inch forecasts.

"Don't let your guard down on this system," Lytle said Friday afternoon. "Indeed, models have been trending away from us the past two days, but NOW they are trending back toward us. Bottom line, this is still an evolving system that could surprise us and its good we have a plan in place."

"It's one thing to have snow on the ground for Christmas, but even more extraordinary for it to actually fall on Christmas Day," Lytle said.

The estimates of snow seemed to be weakening, but have strengthened late Friday afternoon. Earlier, there was a forecast for 2-4 inches, but that was downgraded to  "light snow" accumulation. By Friday afternoon, the forecast was back to 2-4 inches.

The system seems to have slowed down a bit, but it is still on its way -- and likely won't bring accumulating snow until later in the day on Christmas. Although snow might start falling just about any time on Christmas Day, accumulation is not expected to start until the late afternoon.

"The heaviest snow will likely be Saturday evening," Lytle said.

According to the National Weather Service, a white Christmas is defined as any Christmas Day with at least one inch of snow on the ground at any point in the day, whether it falls that day or in previous days.

There have been 10 Christmas Days since records have been kept (1878) that Charlotte has had "some snow" on the ground.  The last time was in 2007, but there have only been 2 "White Christmas Days" since 1878.  We received 4 inches in 1880, and 5.8 inches in 1947. Click on these links for more interesting Charlotte Christmas Day data.  (NOAA Climate and NOAA White Christmas)

Lytle thinks the snow won't start falling until mid-morning on Saturday, and it will be at its peak early evening.

The other interesting thing about this set up is that the heaviest snows will not fall just over the mountains, but also be sizeable from the Piedmont south and east.

"All our WBTV viewing area will be in the snow shield, so expect to hear more about this impending winter storm and our white Christmas for the Carolinas the next few days as we fine tune the details on the storm and its projected path," Lytle said.

Wednesday afternoon, officials with the North Carolina State Emergency Management issued a warning for people who will be traveling this holiday weekend.

"Now is the time to watch those weather forecasts and update those emergency supplies kits for your home and car," said state Emergency Management Director Doug Hoell.

Hoell said holiday travelers should plan on reaching their destination by Saturday afternoon and make plans to remain there for a few days, if needed.

The N.C. Department of Transportation plans to start spreading a brine solution on interstates and major US routes beginning Thursday, and they will have crews on standby during the weekend.

If you will be driving on the road, maintain a safe distance behind snow plows and salt spreaders to give workers ample room.

The N.C. State Highway Patrol already has additional troopers on call to assist motorists who may become stranded or involved in wrecks caused by the snow this weekend.

The state Emergency Management urges residents to be mindful of the following winter safety tips:

  • Keep alternative heating sources prepared. If you have a fireplace, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood. Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure your family knows how to use them.
  • Properly vent kerosene heaters and keep any electric generators OUTSIDE and away from any open windows or doors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, do not burn charcoal indoors. Carbon monoxide poisoning can result from charcoal fumes indoors.
  • Keep fresh batteries on hand to use with flashlights and weather radios.
  • Always keep a three to seven-day supply of non-perishable food in your home.
  • Wear multiple layers of thin clothing instead of a single layer of thick clothing to stay warm. You will be warmer and, as the temperature changes, you can easily remove layers to remain comfortable.
  • If you must travel during a winter storm, store an emergency kit in your vehicle that includes: blankets, a battery-powered radio with extra batteries, a first aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries, battery booster cables and flares, a tire repair kit and pump, a road map, a sack of cat litter (for tire traction), a tow rope, bottled water and non-perishable high-energy foods such as granola bars, extra clothing to keep dry, and a windshield scraper and brush.

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