February 24, 2015

Winter Wonderland on the islands is washing away


The second coastal storm of the week left 2 inches of snow on Hatteras and Ocracoke before it turned to freezing rain late this afternoon and began washing away the white stuff.

Just as forecast, snow began falling about mid-morning on the islands.  From then until mid-afternoon, big, fat snowflakes were falling, swirling around enough in a north-northeast wind to make watching really enjoyable.  By lunchtime, everything was covered in white.

The temperature hovered just around freezing most of the day and rose a degree or two by about 3 p.m. to turn the fat flakes into a funky mix of freezing precipitation. This evening, there's still something frozen falling, though it's expected to taper off in a few hours.

However, the third coastal storm this week -- the first brought only cold rain and wind on Monday -- is expected to march up the coast tomorrow night, bringing more frozen precipitation. And the islands are getting ready for a one-two punch of winter weather, somewhat unusual for this time of year. 

The National Weather Service in Newport, N.C., has issued a winter storm watch for eastern North Carolina, including Hatteras and Ocracoke, from Wednesday evening into Thursday evening.

"This will be a really tricky forecast for you guys on Hatteras," forecaster Casey Dail said this evening.

Another area of low pressure is expected to form in the central Gulf of Mexico Wednesday afternoon and move along the southeast coast Wednesday night into Thursday. Forecasting models are still divergent, Dail said, and predicting exactly what kind of precipitation will fall and when is difficult at this point.

Forecasters are more confident, she said, in predicting significant snowfall for counties to the north and west of the coast. The northern Outer Banks could also get more snow than Hatteras and Ocracoke.

On the islands, Dail said, confidence in the forecast is lower. However, she ventured that we can expect most of the wintry stuff from Wednesday night into Thursday morning.  Right now, she said, temperatures are looking to be slightly warmer along the coast, so we might see more sleet and freezing rain -- though up to an inch of snow is not out of the question.

Residents on Hatteras and Ocracoke should continue to check the latest forecasts from the Weather Service at www.weather.gov/mhx/.

Schools and county and Park Service offices closed early today.  Some folks ventured out, especially to take photos, but the snowfall turned to freezing rain before there were many snowballs packed or snowmen created.

We get a short sunny and warmer break tomorrow with partly cloudy skies and highs in the low to mid-40s.  Clouds ahead of the next winter storm will be rolling in by afternoon.



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