McDowell, Western N.C. prepare for winter storm


McDowell and Western N.C. residents are advised to stay safe on the roads and hunker down as both winter storm and flood watches are in effect across the region.

On Tuesday, the National Weather Service of Greenville-Spartanburg issued a Winter Storm Warning for sections of Western N.C. from 7 p.m. Wednesday through 12 p.m. Thursday. At the same time, a Flood Watch was put into effect for surrounding areas – including the McDowell mountains and eastern McDowell – from noon Wednesday through Thursday evening.

According to the Foothills Weather Network (FWN)’s Wednesday morning forecast, the impact of the winter storm will be varied throughout different sections of Western N.C., with some areas to experience high impact while others would only suffer a “nuisance rain event,” and while other sections may experience a heavy liquid rain event resulting in flash flooding. Rainfall was anticipated Wednesday night across the mountains and Western N.C. foothills and predicted to increase in intensity after sunrise on Thursday, with totals between one and four inches possible with locally higher amounts.

FWN estimates that the greatest risk of flash flooding will be in Catawba, Cleveland, Lincoln and Rutherford counties – with rain totals predicted between two and four inches – while all areas most likely receiving more than 1.5 inches of additional rainfall Thursday.

High temperatures were anticipated at being around 40 degrees Fahrenheit through Thursday morning and expected to fall due to cold high pressure over New England forcing a shallow pool of cold air down south and heavy precipitation bringing colder air aloft down to the surface. By Wednesday’s estimates, rainfall was anticipated to start as liquid rain then transition to freezing rain in the mountains and along and north of I-40 in the foothills as the cold air wedges further south.

For Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and McDowell, a Winter Storm Watch was placed in effect from Wednesday evening through Thursday afternoon as ice accretion up to a quarter inch could be possible, according to FWN. As localized weather conditions are expected to be sporadic from county to county, motorists are highly urged to travel with care with traveling conditions expected to be “treacherous” by Thursday morning. Travel conditions will improve during the late morning to early afternoon, but icing could continue into Thursday evening in the mountains.

Power outages are likely throughout this storm event, with widespread issues expected from the northwest sections of Burke, McDowell and Caldwell on west in the higher elevations.

According to Deputy Director of Emergency Management Craig Walker, the public should prepare for power outages as with any ice storm. Supplies such as flashlights, extra batteries, and needed medical supplies should be on hand. Alternative heat sources should be properly ventilated. CO detectors should be in the home. Roads can become treacherous with ice storms. Remain home and stay off icy roads unless necessary.

For road conditions, the public can contact 511; the 911 center does not give out road conditions. Please reserve 911 for emergencies only.

According to FWN’s 7-day forecast, Thursday’s weather in McDowell predicts an overall 80 percent chance of precipitation and highs of 38 degrees. Conditions are expected to improve from Friday onward with highs in the lower to mid-50s.

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