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Submitted by Tim Buckley on Thu, 01/24/2013 - 9:04am.
Details are becoming a bit clearer now on the looming winter storm Friday night. As we get closer to the event, it continues to look more like the coast will see rain, but a wintry mix remains possible for a time in our inland counties, with a bigger storm possible with the rest of the state. Let's break it down and let you know what to expect for our area. Here we go...
WATCH MY VIDEO DISCUSSION ON THE STORM
THE SETUP: "The Wedge" sets the stage tonight
As I mentioned in my blog yesterday, we're dealing with a high pressure "wedge" setup with cold air moving in place that can sometimes create freezing rain with warm air rising over cold air. That will happen tonight on schedule with low temps dropping to bitterly cold levels into the mid 20's. That's important to our storm forecast. With morning temps in the low 20's we should see our coldest morning of the winter on the eve of a storm. That means the ground will need all the more warming to prevent frozen precip at the surface.
TIMING: When does the storm arrive?
The storm will take a while to get here tomorrow. In fact, Friday morning will be clear and cold. By the afternoon, high clouds will start to increase a bit from west to east. But at that time sunshine will have allowed temperatures to warm a bit. There will be no problems whatsoever before precipitation arrives.
Precipitation will start to arrive late afternoon / early evening from west to east. As of right now, computer models have been consistent with a start time of around 3-5 pm in the west, to 5-7 pm in the east.
The storm should be wrapping up after midnight, with clearing skies for Saturday morning.
PRECIP: Rain/snow/sleet/freezin rain?
The closer we get to the event, the more it looks like a rain event for the majority of the area - particularly at the coast. With winter weather, the crucial numbers you need to look at are temperatures at the ground, and temperatures in the atmosphere just above the ground.
Here's a look at surface temperatures near the onset of precipitation tomorrow afternoon at the surface. This is just part of the story, but with this setup temperatures above the ground should be warmer so it stands to reason that if these numbers hold true it will be very tough to get anything frozen out of the system.
Notice, the colder areas to the north will create trouble for freezing rain and sleet chances. It's Duplin / Sampson / Bladen / Robeson counties that will have the best chances in our area to see a wintry mixed bag of precipitation Friday night.
A good way to illustrate a weather threat is to guage multiple possibilities using probabilities. These diagrams below are a model forecast for precipitation type using probabilities.The Wilmington plot agrees with my thinking that it will be very tough to see anything other than rain for the coastal counties, whereas Elizabethtown is a much closer call - with a wintry mix a real possibility.
Based on those diagrams and other computer models that we run here in the weather center, here's my storm thinking as of this morning. We'll likely have to tweak this a bit and get a little bit more specific heading into tomorrow.
This system has very little moisture to work with in the first place. Areas that see all rain will likely only generate 0.25 -0.50" of rain from the system.
Areas that see a wintry mix farther inland could pick up a quick icy coating. This zone will need to be mindful of the roadways and overpasses overnight Friday, particularly as the temperature begins to drop again toward morning.
Make sure you keep it with us over the next few days as we sift through more data and refine the forecast. Remember that Facebook and Twitter are great sources for constant weather info. I try and keep my page fresh with updates throughout the day.
Go to www.Facebook.com/MeteorologistTimBuckley and click "Like" to receive my updates.
If you're on Twitter, follow me at @TimBuckleyWX.
If you have any questions about this storm, or anything else - those are the best places to reach me.
Thanks for reading; and stay warm!
By: Tim Buckley