Winter storm Diego (December 2018) will be remembered for dumping North Carolina with a rare snowfall. It is far from normal to see any snow in some parts of the state. In coastal NC, we historically get less than 2 inches of snowfall each year. Even where flurries happen, such as the mountains around Asheville, 18 inches in one storm like we have seen with Diego is an anomaly. Although winter might not look that intimidating on the NC coast, winter storms still present problems of their own.
Scroll to the bottom to see 42 remarkable images from Winter Storm Grayson (Jan 2018).
To understand a little about winter in North Carolina, it is important to first consider the state’s geography. With the Atlantic Ocean to the east, some of the strongest weather systems to cross NC come from the water. In eastern NC we are familiar with hurricane season mainly in the late Summer early Fall. The Appalachian Mountains to the west block cold, winter weather from the Midwest from impacting the center Piedmont or coastal regions of the state. Most of the state is considered to have a humid subtropical climate.
In eastern NC, most of the storms that present as snow in the west become rain by the time it travel to us. Much of the region is wetlands and prone to flooding, so heavy rainfall is nothing to scoff at. Most of the damage from Hurricane Florence (September 2018) was not from wind but from the rain laden storm that sat on the region for days. This torrent flooded vast areas and destroyed roads, rendering travel impossible. The potential for flooding as a result of Diego is being closely watched because much of eastern NC is still vulnerable from Florence’s aftermath.
As climate continues to change and become more erratic, however, these historical norms become irrelevant. The wetlands will always be subject to flooding. But there is perhaps more snow in our future.
For those who have spent winters further north, concern over a few inches of snow might warrant a scoff. What is important to remember, however, is that there aren’t resources and plans in place here to accommodate a snow storm. There has never been a reason to prioritize snow removal. Salt rarely gets sprinkled onto streets before a storm and many cities don’t have any snowplows. Many cities and townships work with the NCDOT in case of a storm to clear snow and ice. In cases where the snowfall is widespread it can take days or even weeks before the roadways are passable.
Winter Storm Prep
Before a winter storm hits there are a few preparations to take. It is prudent to gather food that does not need to be cooked. Water is also important to have on hand. Candles and other non-electrical sources of light also come in handy should the power go out. Although flooding is the region’s primary concern, wind can be destructive. When power lines are compromised many homes experience blackouts. If the weather is going to dip below freezing, remember to turn the faucets on in the kitchen and bathrooms to prevent the pipes from freezing. Running water has a harder time freezing than that which sits still in water pipes.
In order to stay safe during storm, try to limit how often you need to leave. Buy the goods that you will need for at least the next few days. As mentioned before, roads will likely remain untreated after any considerable snow fall for at least a day. Ice, snow, and damaged trees make driving dangerous right after a store.
Winter Storm Grayson – January 2018
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