North Carolina, Virginia face immobilizing storm with heavy snow and ice

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
December 09, 2018, 5:52:21 PM EST

Track the storm as it unfolds across the Carolinas and Virginia here.

A storm unloading heavy snow and ice from North Carolina to central and southern Virginia will bring the likelihood of widespread power outages, travel shutdowns and disruptions to daily activities into Monday.

Even though the wintry side of the storm will dodge the major airport hubs of Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York City, airline delays and flight cancellations are likely as aircraft and crews in the heart of the storm, such as the major hub of Charlotte, North Carolina, are displaced.

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Since the storm and its after-effects will continue beyond the weekend, expect school delays and closures into the coming week.

Many municipalities in the South may have great difficulty in handling a winter storm of this magnitude.

Some roads may be blocked and power may be out for several days in the storm's wake.

Download the free AccuWeather app to see the snowfall or ice forecast for your location.

Which areas can expect the heaviest snow?

The heaviest snow, on the order of 12-18 inches with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 24 inches is likely to be centered on western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia. All or mostly snow is forecast to fall from the storm in this area.

static noon snowmap 12/9

Travel along portions of Interstate 26, I-40, I-77 and I-81 may be brought to a halt.

Cities that may receive a foot or more of snow include Hickory, Boone, Gastonia, Statesville, Wilkesboro, Morganton, Winston-Salem and Greensboro, North Carolina.

Farther north, snow may fall for the entirety of the storm in southeastern Kentucky, southernmost West Virginia and southern and central Virginia. In these areas, from 6-12 inches will fall.

Blacksburg and Richmond, Virginia, as well as Bluefield, West Virginia, have the potential for 6 inches or more of snow.

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Dry air to the north is likely to result in a sharp northern edge of the accumulating snow, where a difference of 50 miles may mean the difference between a dusting and enough snow to shovel and plow across east-central Kentucky, south-central West Virginia and central Virginia. That plow/no plow zone may be within 50 miles of Beckley, West Virginia, and Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Storm to produce heavy ice and wintry mix

Farther south and east, a greater percentage of the storm will occur as an icy mix and/or plain rain, which will limit the accumulation. However, this does not mean that a heavy amount of snow and ice cannot occur.

There is likely to be great impact on travel and daily activities despite the changeover in precipitation type.

Where snow changes over to rain, much of the accumulation will melt and wash away quickly. However, rain will do little to improve road conditions where ice is expected first in cities such as Durham and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Static CLT

The snow with the added weight of ice and water may be extremely difficult to remove.

Snow may fall at the rate of 1-2 inches per hour in some areas where a change to ice and plain rain may follow. This means that roads may become impassable in a matter of minutes in some cases.

People are urged to stay off the roads and heed official warnings during the event to allow the limited number of crews to battle the storm without vehicles blocking the way.

A wide range in snowfall is expected from southeast to northwest across the I-85 corridor from Virginia to North Carolina, including the Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham areas. In this swath, a difference of 25 miles may bring a couple of inches of snow and slush farther to the southeast to a foot of snow farther to the northwest.

Static Raleigh

Conditions in this swath and across the northern counties of South Carolina, the northeastern counties of Georgia and the easternmost counties of Tennessee may vary tremendously, ranging from snow and sleet followed by street flooding to wintry conditions throughout the storm.

Timing the long-duration storm

A wintry mix will continue to spread through Tennessee and Kentucky on Sunday while snow and ice ramps up in North Carolina and Virginia into Sunday night.

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Changes in temperature are likely to allow rain at the start and end of the storm in some locations.

The rain does not necessarily mean that a blockbuster snow or ice event will be prevented.

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While coastal areas will be spared from snow and ice, a stiff onshore wind can create coastal flooding problems and beach erosion from Charleston, South Carolina to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and into southeastern Virginia.

Chilly air with pockets of snow, ice and rain are forecast to linger in the wake of the storm on Monday.

While the storm is forecast to wind down on Monday, temperatures will not significantly rebound through the middle days of the week.

Sunshine during the day will melt a small amount of snow, the snow and ice cover is not likely to rapidly disappear.

At least Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday should be free of precipitation in the region for storm cleanup operations.

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