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                   Sunday, March 1, 2009 - 4:45AM

Winter storm for Appalachians, Carolinas and deep south

By DAN ROBINSON
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Update 4:10AM, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
Arrived back home just after 4AM. Time for bed! Photos and maybe a video clip to come after a night's sleep.

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Update 11:01PM, (Posted from Statesville, NC):
Just observed two very faint flashes of lightning to the northeast, about 10 minutes apart. Frustrating night so far with lightning too random to intercept. Probably going to head home here soon - it will be a long drive!

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Update 9:53PM, (Posted from Statesville, NC):
A little over 2 inches on the ground in the 90 minutes since my last post here in Statesville. Despite the heavy rates, no lightning yet (the burst of activity to the southwest didn't last.) The heaviest band is still to our west-southwest and should pivot through here in a few hours. I'm not planning on repositioning again tonight due to the roads being largely untreated/unplowed and extremely treacherous (fishtailing at 30mph on the interstate).

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Update 8:17PM, (Posted from Statesville, NC):
Now in Statesville with thundersnow just 40-50 miles to my southwest according to lightning strike data. Should be here within the hour if it can hold together! Currently 32°F here with heavy, wet snow just beginning to stick.

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Update 6:23PM, (Posted from Wytheville, VA):
Dropping down to Mount Airy now as the deformation band seems to be organizing between Greenville and Atlanta, slowly stretching northeastward. Lightning is still disappointingly absent, although a few random strikes are popping up in the band. Winston-Salem still looks OK, but I don't want to go quite that far for now. I'm hoping that lightning will increase some as the deformation band maxes out later tonight.

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Update 4:44PM, (Posted from Pulaski, VA):
Stopped west of Pulaski now in a 'wait and see' mode. Inland lightning strikes have vanished completely and the new RUC doesn't show as itense banding as was suggested earlier. Central NC still has a ways to go to change over (mostly rain now), so the plan of action now is to hold tight here for a while. If the further trends show no lightning in the heaviest snow banding, I'll be turning around and heading home.

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Update 3:25PM, (Posted from Bastian, VA):
Currently paused for a data stop at Bastian, VA in heavy snow at 32°F. Lightning activity at the low core has diminished, but I expect that to cycle up and down as the event continues. Still on course for Winston-Salem, at which point I'll likely adjust south, west or east as needed.

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Update 12:58PM, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
Thundersnow currently reported in Atlanta, Georgia - that's all I needed to see. On the road now toward Winston-Salem.

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Update 4:42AM Sunday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
Still awake and watching the random precip blobs/bands pop up and dissipate in no apparent pattern. Downtown is holding at 34°F, so I doubt there will be problems here tonight unless some heavy banding sets up overhead for a while (which does not look likely). The Kanawha EMS feed has been quiet, as has all other local highway information sources, so it looks like this may be the huge non-event of the season for Charleston.

Hopefully I can 'put this one to bed' literally and get some sleep before a possible run down to Greensboro, NC tomorrow, contingent on developing thundersnow once the deformation band begins to set up. Both GFS and NAM show a very intense band somewhere across Piedmont NC and VA by sunset.

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Update 1:04AM Sunday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
Nice solid glaze on everything at the house now, as well as most guardrails/signs/metal objects around town. The valley is still holding at 33°F, while most hilltops (including my home subdivision) are at 31°. Not an ice storm by any means yet, and nothing much photogenically speaking either. We're in a precip lull for the next hour or so. I think the night is far from over, looking at the way precip areas are blooming out of nowhere just to our south.

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Update 10:58PM Saturday, (Posted from Big Chimney, WV):
Currently sitting at the Crestwood overpass over I-79 near Big Chimney. Temp here is 31°F with light freezing rain/sleet. The bridge itself (I use this one as a 'test bridge') is not yet icing, but the adjacent guardrails are already coated with ice.

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Update 5:36PM Saturday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
The RUC model has backed off even further regarding the forecast impact of this storm for West Virginia. Temps are shown as falling very slowly overnight, with the freezing mark not reached until possibly 2AM or later. That means rain and/or non-sticking snow until after 2 or 3, at which time the transition to freezing rain/sleet and/or accumulating snow can finally occur. 39°F now in downtown Charleston with the precip shield to the south slowly inching this way.

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Update 2:08PM Saturday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
Both the GFS and NAM have backed off significantly from their earlier snow total amounts, which is not unexpected. The freezing rain phase of the storm is expected to be longer in duration for the West Virginia zones, which along with much lower forecast storm total precip (QPF) will hold down snow total amounts. Central North Carolina and Virginia still have the potential to see significant accumulations (over 6 inches).

Thundersnow is still the objective with any NC/VA target, but my willingness to travel to get it is not very high. If it ends up being confined to coastal areas, I'll just let it go. If it can happen close to the mountains, I'll probably jump on it. It's not easy to forecast for thunder in a snow event like this, so the strategy is still to simply wait and see what the storm does as it gets going down south.

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Update 9:23AM Saturday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
The North Carolina portion of this storm is only an expedition prospect for me if thundersnow is a possibility. The jury is still out on whether lightning will be present in the deformation zone (the banded area of heavy snow to the northwest of the low).

Right now, models don't paint a good picture for thunder on the inland (cold) side of the low. The upper jet streak is shown well offshore during the time of the maximum snowfall rates over the Carolinas, and no real instability is evident.

However, a coastal storm of this strength this time of year climatologically is a candidate for lightning. Most likely I'll wait and see if the deformation zone starts producing lightning in Georgia/Alabama on Sunday night/Monday morning. If it does, there should be plenty of time to make it to I-40 into central NC to meet it.

The 12z model runs will be out in a few hours to give us the next batch of data to peruse.

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Update 1:35AM Saturday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
The models have seemed to lock on to the greater possibility of this big storm actually coming to pass, so I'll get the ball rolling on a running-updates post. This is shaping up to potentially be the largest snowstorm the US east of the Mississippi has seen this season, and potentially a one-in-15 years storm for the south and the Carolinas if the models are correct. Here are model-generated snow total estimates (these maps will update as new model runs come out):

MAP: GFS model snowfall totals through Tuesday (Raleigh, NC area)
MAP: NAM model snowfall totals through Tuesday (Raleigh, NC area)
MAP: GFS model snowfall totals through Tuesday (Charleston, WV area)
MAP: NAM model snowfall totals through Tuesday (Charleston, WV area)

I am tentatively planning on covering the storm here in West Virginia on Sunday, then heading south into North Carolina for Monday.

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Looks like they got a right dollop on the east coast, New Jersey.
- Posted by Mick from UK

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