Snowfall could match 2009 storm totals

Up to eight inches predicted
Feb. 12, 2014 @ 08:03 AM

Believe it or not -- and some people don't -- Caldwell County could be in for one of the biggest snow storms in recent history today and tonight.

From Monday afternoon through late Tuesday, National Weather Service forecast changed in some ways but stuck with a prediction of eventual snow accumulation of 5 to as much as 8 or 9 inches by Thursday morning. The upper end of that range would exceed a storm in December 2009 that left 7 inches.

The most snow the area has gotten in the past 20 years was from the so-called "'93 Superstorm" that left 13 inches in March 1993. In December 1997, the area received 10 inches of snow.

The most snow Caldwell County has ever gotten in one day is 25 inches on Jan 24, 1923, according to the State Climate Office.

It's not hard to find skeptics about the predicted snowfall -- for instance, Monica Kidd commented on a News-Topic post on Facebook, "I'm not holding my breath ... it'll end up a dusting or rain."

And the skeptics stand a chance of being right because predicting exactly how much snow will fall is an educated guess at best, said Jeffrey Taylor, meteorologist with the NWS's office in Spartanburg, S.C.

"The storm's track could shift 10, 20 or 30 miles, which could make a big difference in terms of precipitation," Taylor said.

"You also have to think about what's happening above the atmosphere. Temperature changes in different layers of air will affect what falls out of the sky. The precipitation will vary depending on when or where the system develops."

A winter storm warning is in effect for Caldwell County and the surrounding areas until 6 p.m. Thursday, prompting school officials to cancel classes for students in Caldwell County schools. As of Tuesday evening, the National Weather Service forecast called for a 100 percent chance of snowfall today, with accumulations of 2 to 4 inches during the day and another 3 to 5 inches into early Thursday. The temperature today is supposed to remain in the 20s.

But Thursday brings slightly warmer weather as the snow is expected to mix with rain before ending, with a high temperature near 41, the NWS said.

The N.C. Department of Transportation started spraying brine on roads Monday and did more Tuesday, said Kenny Heavner, DOT county maintenance engineer. "Everyone's aware of their routes. We're as ready as we could ever be."

Line technicians with Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp. also are on high alert, ready to respond to any outages, should they occur as a result of the storm. Line crews have been double-checking equipment and service vehicles. The key determining factor for how a snow storm impacts power lines and tree limbs is the wetness of the snow, said Renee Whitener, BREMCO director of public relations. In short, snowball weather is ripe conditions for power line issues.

"Generally, temperatures of 30 degrees or higher result in wetter, heavier snow," she said. When we have temperatures below 30 degrees, we typically have 'drier' snow. Light, fluffy snow doesn't cause a problem. A heavier, wetter snow can lead to outages if it accumulates and weighs down power lines or tree limbs, which can fall into power lines.

"We'll be ready when it comes," Whitener said.