Charlotte could see more than a foot of snow this weekend, the National Weather Service predicted Thursday morning, while cautioning that forecast totals will change in the days ahead.
The Weather Channel predicted early Thursday that the snow would top out at eight inches in Mecklenburg County.
Some worst-case scenarios issued Thursday predicted as much as 18 inches for northern Mecklenburg County, along with towns like Forest City, Gastonia, Hickory, Lincolnton, Statesville, Salisbury and Morganton, according to the National Weather Service.
Best case scenario is only three inches south of Interstate 85.
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Ice predictions for the southern half of Mecklenburg County are between a tenth and a quarter of an inch range, and nearly a a half of an inch possible east in Union County and south in York County, the NWS predicted Thursday.
Up to 14 inches could fall just west and north of Charlotte, including Gaston, Rutherford and Lincolnton counties,” said a Thursday morning update by the National Weather Service. Morganton, Hickory and Brevard could see 12 to 13 inches, forecasters said.
“Local 20-plus amounts are possible across higher east facing mountain and foothill locations,” said the National Weather Service early Thursday.
“Dangerous freezing rain and sleet accumulations in excess of one half an inch continue to be possible with the high totals and therefore impacts between I-85 and I-40 outside of the mountains.”
Areas east of Charlotte, like Monroe, could see six to eight inches of snow, while cities south of the state line in South Carolina will have 8 to 12 inches as far southwest as Spartanburg, said the National Weather Service.
Bundle up, as wind chill values of 20 to 30 degrees are predicted throughout the Charlotte region. “Hypothermia or frost bite possible with extended exposure,” the NWS said in its 5 p.m. Wednesday update.
Forecasters predict snow would likely start after 9 p.m. Saturday, when temperatures will fall to 31 degrees, said the National Weather Service.
However, Sunday will see the worst of it, with a mix of snow and freezing rain before 10 a.m., then freezing rain from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., changing to snow after 4 p.m. The high for the day will be 34 degrees and the chance of precipitation is 80 percent, said the National Weather Service.
A snow and sleet mix is predicted Sunday night and it will continue through Monday morning, before switching to rain and sleet at noon. The high Monday will be 37 degrees and chance of precipitation is 70 percent.
The type of “wet” snow expected with the system could cover roads and down power lines and tree branches, the Weather Service warned. Less than a half inch of a freezing rain-ice mixture is possible in the N.C. foothills and Piedmont, according to the NWS forecast.
“Snowfall amounts are highly subject to change given any variability in track of weather system and temperature forecast,” the NWS cautioned beside its map.
“We’re very hesitant to give estimates, because this is heavily subject to change,” Trisha Palmer, a meteorologist with the NWS office in Greer, told The Charlotte Observer in a phone interview at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. “It is going to change.”
The NWS total predicted snowfall map is for snow that could fall between 7 a.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Tuesday. Palmer told the Observer that much of the snow should begin arriving early Sunday.
Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak
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