Local officials are once again preparing for a fast-moving cold surge of weather which could sweep into the area today with the possibility of snow with freezing sleet and rain.
According to National Weather Service Forecaster Patrick Wilson in Blacksburg, Va., today will start sunny and cold, with daytime temperatures averaging 34 degrees and falling to 19 degrees tonight. Wilson characterized the approaching system as a fast moving, low pressure front traveling through our area from the Great Plains. As of 4:30 p.m. Thursday, the service issued a statement placing Surry County under a winter storm advisory.
Forecaster Jim Hudgins said this advisory was issued because of the potential for ice and it will be in effect today from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Wilson said as the system sweeps through today, temperatures will be cold enough for snow when that system merges with a warmer system coming from the South. Depending on the moisture and temperature of the southern system, this could cause sleet or a mix of snow with sleet or even freezing drizzle. He said Mount Airy could have snow accumulating from 1-3 inches. The surrounding mountains could see anywhere from 2-4 inches of snow.
“The issue with this system is sleet,” said Wilson. “According to how the conditions unfold, its a question of how much will mix in, if it does anything at all.”
He said the weather models run for the storm locally said there is a possibility of wet snow.
“It looks like this will be a fast moving system straight out of the east and then it will continue past and out to sea,” said Wilson. “It’s going to happen pretty quickly and it looks like there is not going to be as much snow in the mountains as the last system dropped a week ago.”
Wilson also predicted winds with this storm system would not be as strong as in the previous storm.
“After Friday night, we will actually start to see a warm up,” added Wilson. He said he expected temperatures to be 38 degrees during the day Saturday with daytime highs reaching 60 degrees by Tuesday. “It looks like it’s going to warm up and any accumulation will be gone quickly. After getting used to the colder temperatures it’s going to be a shock to some.”
He added forecasters feel the snow and sleet will be pushed over by rain next week.
“I think the main issue will be travel (Friday and Saturday),” summarized Wilson. “It doesn’t look like there is going to be as much wet snow to endanger power lines. We feel would mostly impact travel, especially Friday night and again Saturday night when it returns to freezing temperatures which could cause black ice as the icy roads melt and re-freeze.
Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson said the department’s procedures will center on making sure extra civilian employees can be on hand to run the department freeing up more deputies to answer calls. He said the department also has four-wheel drive vehicles it will rotate officers to, which was the same preparation as last week.
“We will be open for business as always,” joked Atkinson. “We will continue as usual.” He reminded residents to stay home if at all possible during the upcoming storm. Atkinson said needless travel in bad weather results in more stranded motorists and hampers the department’s efforts answering calls.
“The highway department will have the roads ready in a short time so if you can stay in a while it would be a help to us,” added Atkinson.
North Carolina Department of Transportation County Maintenance Engineer Mark Williams said road crews had plows and spreaders mounted back on all their vehicles by Thursday evening. He said as early as Thursday, crews had begun applying salt so a brine would form on road surfaces in preparation for the lower temperatures.
He said in a worst case scenario, the department also has contractors available to help push snow off highways.
Surry County Emergency Services Director John Shelton said EMS teams are going about checking generators because of the potential storm as well as being sure additional rescue personnel will be available if needed.
“If we start to have a lot of slipping and sliding we could see a variety of accidents happening,” said Shelton. “We are making sure we have enough people to cover so if the storm escalates we have staff ready to come in so we are also making sure our vehicles are prepped and ready to go.”
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.