As snow arrives, Rowan County residents keep watch on just how much

Published 12:10 am Saturday, January 7, 2017

By Mark Wineka

SALISBURY — About 3:30 p.m. Friday, a mixture of sleet and snow started falling in Rowan County, and forecasters warned residents to brace themselves for 4 to 8 inches of snow by this morning.

Forecasters aren’t always 100 percent sure of snow, but in this case, they were. That confidence led many institutions and organizations to close and cancel activities for the weekend (see accompanying story).

Places such as the YMCA and Rowan Public Library branches are closed. The towns of Landis and Rockwell even went so far as to cancel town board meetings for Monday.

Accompanying the snow will be frigid temperatures Saturday and Sunday nights. High temperatures both days are not expected to rise above freezing.

Tonight’s low will be 10 degrees, according to the National Weather Service; Sunday’s low, 6 degrees. Forecasters expected the snow to end about 10 a.m. today.

The National Weather Service called for 4 to 8 inches in Rowan County. Steve Monday, the man behind the Rowan County Weather website and Facebook page, stuck to his prediction of 5 to 7 inches of snow for the county.

Through much of the day Friday, Monday kept a close watch on short-range weather models and updated his forecast accordingly.

The sleet and snow started in Rowan County a little sooner than expected Friday, but Monday had factored that into his accumulation predictions. He said areas east of Interstate 85 in Rowan County will probably have heavier snowfall.

Places on the eastern edge of the county, such as Gold Hill, might see 8 inches of snow or more, Monday said, describing how it will be closer to a “deformation zone,” bounded by warmer air on the east and colder air on the west. Heavier snow occurs in a deformation zone, Monday said.

For weather experts such as Monday, the season’s first snow is always a busy time.

“I like it,” he said, describing how he would stay up all night and probably not sleep until this afternoon. “My wife will say, ‘I’m going to sleep; do what you want.'”

Before he crashes this afternoon, Monday hopes the snow will have ended and he can send up his drone to capture some wintry images from the air.

If this snow goes as predicted, Monday said, it will destroy his long-range winter forecast made weeks ago in which he concluded Rowan County might only see 1 to 3 inches of snow all season.

The National Weather Service said winds today will be 11 to 13 mph, with gusts up to 18 mph. The wind will die down tonight and the sky will be clear, and Sunday will be a sunny day, but the year’s coldest temperatures will hit Sunday night.

Monday’s forecast is for a high of 31 and a low of 17.

In a weather-related incident, the Salisbury Fire Department responded to the report Friday afternoon of a possible fire at the Head Start Price Center, 1300 W. Bank St. There was no fire visible when crews arrived, but officials investigated an electrical fire odor, which was later traced to a malfunctioning space heater.

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in North Carolina in anticipation of the storm. Monday said the weather models showed areas northeast of Rowan County such as Burlington and Raleigh could see 8 to 12 inches of snow.

Overnight, local and state road crews started tackling primary arteries and bridges with plows, salt and sand.

While it’s preferable to stay inside, motorists who must travel should be prepared for ice- and snow-covered roads. The National Weather Service says a good winter emergency kit for your car should include a cellphone charger, first-aid kit, jumper cables, flares, water, snacks, warm clothing, blankets, flashlight, snow shovel and brush, tow rope, and sand or kitty litter.

It’s also good to have a full tank of gas.

If you’re staying inside and your heat goes out, the National Weather Service advises this:

• Close off unneeded rooms to avoid wasting heat.

• Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.

• Close blinds and curtains to keep in more heat.

• Eat and drink. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat. Drinks lot of water and other non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic drinks to prevent dehydration, because cold air is dry.

• Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight and warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.