• TRACKING: Snow falling in Charlotte as wintry mess moves into Carolinas

    Updated:

    >> The Carolinas are bracing for a powerful storm that has the area under a Winter Storm Warning. Our meteorologists have been tracking this system for days and have the timeline for when the rain will turn to snow and how much you will see where you live, in the latest forecast update below:

    [LINK: Check current delays and closings]

    Forecast highlights:

    • A strong winter storm approached the Carolinas late Saturday and will continue through Sunday and into Monday
    • A Winter Storm Warning has been issued
    • State of Emergency declared for all 100 North Carolina counties
    • Heavy snowfall will start up into Sunday morning, especially north of I-85 into the mountains
    • Saturday night models showed the potential snowfall amounts decreasing a bit 
    • Accumulations will be the highest north of Charlotte and into the mountains, with the High Country expected to see about 10 inches or more.
    • The metro area is looking at snowfall totals at about 2 inches, but there could be some spots that see 2-5 inches closer to Lake Norman
    • Foothills could see 5-10 inches
    • Neighborhoods south of uptown into South Carolina could see just a couple inches
    • The bottom line is that a significant winter storm -- especially for December standards -- is coming this weekend, and you should be prepared


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    The National Weather Service said a "prolonged period of snow is expected" starting Saturday and lasting until Monday, with the heaviest snow expected in northwest North Carolina and southern Virginia. Forecasters have said some mountainous areas of North Carolina could get up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of snow or more.

    The storm moving across the Southeast will bring a high likelihood of wintry precipitation and significant impacts to North Carolina.

    Heavy rains were expected elsewhere in other parts of the South, creating possible floods in coastal areas.

    North Carolina's largest electric utility, Duke Energy, has said more there could more than 500,000 power outages.

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    [WINTER WEATHER GUIDE: What you need to know before the storm]

    [WINTER WEATHER OUTLOOK: Channel 9 meteorologists prepare you for the season ahead]

    Travel will be hazardous where the wintry precipitation is expected, especially on Sunday. There is also the threat of power outages as soggy soil, accumulation of snow and ice and gusty winds could bring down trees and take power lines with them.

    Governors and local officials in several states declared emergencies ahead of the storm, freeing up funds and manpower to help mitigate its effect.

    North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Saturday that residents in some parts of the state should be ready for a lengthy fight with the storm, which was beginning to dump sleet and snow across its western mountain areas Saturday night.

    "We're preparing for days of impact, not hours," Cooper said, urging caution. "This weekend isn't the time to head out to see the winter wonderland. Stay safe where you are. Getting out on dangerous roads could put your life at risk."

    The governor has activated the National Guard in case they are needed. He urged residents to update their emergency supplies at home and to use alternative energy sources safely to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

    In a press conference Saturday afternoon, Cooper addressed the public on safety ahead of the storm making its way into the Carolinas. 

    Cooper said residents should be prepared for days of impact, not hours and all of North Carolina will feel the impact of this storm. 

    “This storm comes at a time of year when North Carolinians are usually hearing carols about snow, not actually seeing it. But this time, the real thing is headed our way and North Carolina is getting prepared,” Cooper said. “A winter storm’s not a Christmas carol snow. It’s serious, and you need to take steps now to get your family ready.”

    Officials also warned to avoid driving on the roadways as snow and ice will make the roads treacherous. 

    North Carolina State Highway Patrol Col. McNeill said troopers are on standby when driving conditions start to diminish through the day Saturday and into Sunday. 


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    Getting roads winter weather-ready

    North Carolina Department of Transportation crews were busy overnight preparing local roads for snow and ice. They focused on Interstate 77 and Interstate 85 before moving to state highways.

    [LINK: City of Charlotte winter weather information page]

    Crews are working 12-hour shifts pre-treating roads with brine and salt.

    >> Our team of meteorologists is tracking the system 24 hours a day, analyzing its path and the impact it will have on your neighborhood. Download our free weather app so you can be prepared and stay ahead of the storm.

    During the height of the storm, Charlotte DOT will have up to 100 trucks on the roads.

    "It's going to be all hands on deck and once we get started we work around the clock until this event is over with," said NCDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Thompson.

    Contract crews in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties started pre-treating interstates Thursday night with a brine solution that is a mixture of water and salt, and on the Monroe Expressway in Union County.

    The operation started with 20 brine trucks and will increase to 68 over the weekend, topping out at just under 100 by Sunday night to help plow away any accumulating snow.

    NCDOT crews in Mecklenburg County started to brine other roadways on Friday morning, using 10 state trucks. An additional 23 contract trucks will be available over the weekend to help clear primary roads.

    In other areas, including Anson, Cabarrus, Stanly and Union counties, state forces began brining operations Friday morning, continuing until all bare pavement routes are treated.

    On Thursday and Friday, more than 200 employees in Alexander, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell and Lincoln counties started pre-treating roads with brine.

    CDOT officials said they started preparing for winter weather in September.

    “They’ve spent the last two days brining the streets,” said Liz Babson, who is with the CDOT. “And that’s a pretreatment where we go to treat culverts and bridges to try to do whatever we can to minimize the impact of the storm.”

    The North Carolina Highway Patrol in cooperation with the North Carolina Department of Transportation will be implementing immediate tow procedures to remove abandoned and disabled vehicles from the shoulders of interstates and other major thoroughfares.

    Those efforts started at 10 a.m. on Saturday on I-85 and areas to the west. Motorists will not be allowed the usual 24 hour period to remove vehicles from highway shoulders or medians.

    [City of Charlotte's emergency plan for ice and snow removal]

    City officials warned residents that if they do not have to be on the road during the storm to please stay home. If you must travel, make sure your vehicle is ready:

    • Completely defrost your windows before leaving
    • Remove snow and ice from vehicle roofs and windows
    • Make sure you have windshield washer fluid and functioning wipers
    • Do not pass brine trucks or follow too closely
    • Do not drive between plow trucks

    People started preparing for the impending storm by stocking up on supplies.

    Shoppers pulled what they need from the shelves at the Harris Teeter in South End.

    "Milk, bread, chips, bloody Mary mix," one shopper said.

    City officials said if we see freezing rain, the impact will be so significant on trees it needs to be reported immediately.

    “If you see a tree that has fallen across the street, call 911,” civil engineer Mike Davis said. “The reason for that is that it will trigger all the right things to happen for the city and utility companies to respond.”

    In the high country, snow has already piled up from earlier this week. Channel 9 saw plenty of snow along Main Street in Blowing Rock.

    In Iredell County, the Salvation Army on Caldwell Street in Statesville will be on standby to open as a cold weather emergency shelter on Saturday at 8 p.m. It would also serve as a warming shelter on Sunday into Monday.

    The community can help by providing pillows, blankets, coats, hygiene items, coffee, and snacks. Monetary contributions to help heat homes will also be accepted.

    [LINK: Check current delays and closings]

    Boone typically sees about three feet of snow in an entire year, and this storm could drop up to a foot and a half. As the weekend storm gets closer, many visitors are cutting their trips short so they don’t get stuck.

    “We’re getting out just ahead of it," said James Price, from Tennessee. "If you’re going to get stuck, this is a good place to get stuck, but it’s good to get out.”

    Charlotte Douglas airport prepares for winter storm

    The Charlotte Douglas International Airport is closely monitoring the weather and is prepared to implement winter weather preparations if and when needed.

    Passengers are encouraged to follow CLT on Twitter to receive the latest updates.

    [LINK: FAA real-time flight information map]

    [LINK: Flight tracker]

    American Airlines announced plans to reduce its operation at Charlotte's airport (American’s second-largest hub) starting Saturday evening.

    Scattered cancellations are expected through Monday morning. The majority of these cancellations will be on smaller, regional aircraft.

    American Airlines has issued a travel alert for 17 airports, including their Charlotte hub. The travel alert allows customers whose travel plans may be impacted by this inclement weather to rebook without change fees.

    Officials said airport roadways, overpasses and parking lots were pre-treated Friday night.


    Winter Weather Resources:


    As of 7:30 p.m. Saturday, American has canceled 225 flights for Saturday and 1,100 flights for Sunday across the region ahead of the winter storm. 

    In a release, officials said:

    "Due to the anticipated winter weather at our Charlotte hub, American will reduce its operation at the airport starting Saturday evening. Scattered cancellations are expected through Monday morning. The majority of these cancellations will be on smaller, regional aircraft." 

    CMS monitoring weather weather

    The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District said it’s monitoring the impending winter storm closely and coordinating with local and state emergency management.

    District officials have not made a decision on Monday school cancellations. 

    The district said ensuring safe campuses is one of the many considerations that goes into deciding whether to close schools. CMS also focuses on neighborhood roads that are not immediately cleared of snow because they have to worry about parents driving and all the school buses. 

    They are bringing in 1,500 crews from out of state to help with response. In total, they have more than 8,700 crews ready to respond to outages. 

    Winter Weather Resources:


    To get ready for winter weather, North Carolina Emergency Management officials urge you to:

    • Store an emergency kit in your vehicle. Include scraper, jumper cables, tow chain, sand/salt, blankets, flashlight, first aid kit and road map
    • Always keep at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food in your home
    • Keep fresh batteries on hand for weather radios and flashlights
    • Properly vent kerosene heaters and keep electric generators outside and away from open windows or doors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not burn charcoal indoors
    • Use a NOAA Weather Radio or monitor local news media for changing weather conditions
    • Keep alternative heating sources and fire extinguishers on hand. Be sure your family knows how to use them
    • Download the ReadyNC app for more winter weather preparedness information


    For more winter weather preparation tips, follow North Carolina Emergency Management or South Carolina Emergency Management on Twitter.

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