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If everything goes to Mother Nature’s plan, a significant winter storm could impact the foothills of Western North Carolina this weekend.

According to the National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg on Tuesday, Saturday calls for an 80 percent chance of precipitation which could include rain, freezing rain and sleet between 8 and 9 a.m. Snow, possibly mixed with rain and sleet could occur before 2 a.m. on Saturday turning into snow and freezing rain mixed with sleet. Sunday into Monday looks like a chance of rain and freezing rain mixed with snow.

Chris White with the Foothills Weather Network, covering McDowell and surrounding counties, told The McDowell News that overall this winter is looking really active.

“McDowell has already had two icing events on the northern and southern end of the county,” he said.

FWN has called for well above average snowfall for McDowell County this winter.

“I don’t think it’s going to be brutally cold,” he said. “I think we will have cold and warm spells. If you love snow you don’t want it to be brutally cold. It’s one of those winters, if you love winter, you are excited.”

FWN works closely with McDowell County Emergency Management to bring the latest weather updates during minor and major storms to emergency personnel. FWN has their office located within the McDowell County Emergency Operations Center at the Universal Manufacturing Building.

“Foothills Weather Network provides exceptional technical support to McDowell County Emergency Management,” said Emergency Services Director William Kehler. “During high impact events, the staff from FWN assists emergency managers working at the EOC with up-to-date forecast information specific to McDowell County. This allows the EOC to relay real-time information to field personnel who can make critical decisions based upon the forecast information.”

For more information, check out foothillsweathernetwork.com or find them on Facebook.

Gov. Roy Cooper has declared Dec. 2 – 8 as Winter Weather Preparedness Week and is encouraging North Carolinians to plan and prepare now before potentially dangerous winter weather arrives.

“Some North Carolina families have already seen their first round of winter weather while others are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, but we want all residents to be prepared for winter weather in the months ahead,” Cooper said. “Take time now to review emergency plans, update emergency supply kits and always stay informed about weather forecasts.”

North Carolina’s unpredictable winter weather patterns can be attributed to the state’s proximity to the Appalachian Mountains, Atlantic Ocean, Gulf Stream and Gulf of Mexico. Each year there are approximately 6 to 12 winter storms in the Piedmont, 12 or more winter storms in the mountains and fewer than 4 winter storms that impact the coastal counties.

Cooper urged residents to monitor changing weather conditions by listening to local media and paying close attention to winter weather warnings. Remember, a Winter Storm Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for either heavy snow, sleet, or freezing rain within the next 48 hours, while a Winter Storm Warning is issued when at least 3 inches of snow and/or ice accumulations of ¼ inch or more are likely within the next 24 hours. A Winter Weather Advisory is issued when 1 to 3” of snow or ice accumulations of less than ¼” are expected within the next 24 hours, causing travel difficulties.

Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center are expecting a weak El Nino pattern to develop and influence weather conditions this winter. An El Niño pattern favors wetter than normal conditions across the southeastern United States during the winter months.

“A wetter than normal winter does not necessarily mean a snowier winter,” said North Carolina Emergency Management Meteorologist Kevin Kalbaugh. “Long-range snow forecasts are pretty much impossible, but we have an increased potential of seeing above normal precipitation between December and February.”

To help ensure you are ready for winter weather, North Carolina Emergency Management officials urge you to:

Always keep enough non-perishable food in your home for 3 days.

Keep fresh batteries on hand for weather radios and flashlights.

Dress warmly. Wear multiple layers of thin clothing instead of a single layer of thick clothing.

Properly vent kerosene heaters and keep any electric generators outside and away from open windows or doors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Never burn charcoal indoors.

Use a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio to monitor for changing weather conditions.

Keep alternative heating sources and fire extinguishers on hand. Be sure your family knows how to use them.

Store an emergency kit in your vehicle. Include scraper, jumper cables, tow chain, sand/salt, blankets, flashlight, first aid kit and road map.

If you must travel during bad weather, emergency officials remind motorists to leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles and if driving on snow- or ice-covered roadways, reduce your speed. If conditions worsen, pull off the highway and remain in your vehicle. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you can take shelter.

Governor Cooper encourages North Carolinians to include pets in their emergency plans. To keep animals safe during winter weather, emergency management officials recommend you:

Make an emergency supplies kit for your pet and include medical records, first aid kit, enough canned/dry food and water for 3 - 7 days and pet travel bag or carrier.

Do not leave pets outside for long periods of time and bring pets inside when temperatures drop below freezing.

Ensure your pet has a well-fitting collar.

Move livestock and other animals to a sheltered location with food and water.

The Department of Public Safety and the National Weather Service work together to help North Carolinians plan and prepare for winter weather by providing accurate weather and safety information.

For more information on how to prepare for winter storms, check the ReadyNC app or visit readync.org.

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