Wintry mix likely in store for Rowan County this weekend

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 6, 2018

By Mark Wineka

SALISBURY — By now, you know the drill.

Raid the grocery stores. Keep the Weather Channel on 24/7. Spread the sand or kitty litter on the sidewalks. Check the gas in the generators. Be on alert for cancellations. Make soup.

And keep looking outside.

Forecasters are calling for the first dose of wintry weather to make its way to Rowan County sometime this weekend and maybe stretching into Monday.

Freezing rain, sleet, snow — take your pick — could all be in the mix of precipitation headed to the Piedmont and Rowan County, likely starting after 4 p.m. Saturday.

The National Weather Service office in Greenville, South Carolina, which provides the forecasts for this area, says a strong coastal low pressure system will be to blame.

“Snow and ice accumulations are most likely across the mountains, foothills and northwest Piedmont of North Carolina, but possible elsewhere, especially along and north of Interstate 85.”

So Rowan County could be right on the edge of whatever winter precipitation is coming,

The National Weather Service says a “wintry mix” is 70 percent to 80 percent likely for Rowan on Saturday night through much of the day Monday.

Temperature highs will be 39 Saturday, 34 Sunday and 38 Monday, but the overnight lows those days will sink below freezing.

Saturday night, Rowan might see a mix of rain, snow and sleet. Sunday could bring freezing rain and sleet, with snow and sleet a possibility in the early-morning hours of Monday.

Monday during the day brings a good chance of most everything — rain, snow and freezing rain.

The good news is on the bookends. Thursday and Friday will be mostly sunny, with Friday’s high near 49. Tuesday, the sun will return with temperatures near 44.

But the unclear forecast for the type of precipitation has N.C. Department of Transportation crews in limbo as far as preparations or brine pretreatments.

“It’s obviously all about the timing,” said Mike Hedrick, county maintenance engineer with the DOT. “If we get a heavy rain beforehand, that would wash off the salt brine. We’re going to have to wait and see on that.”

If the precipitation starts in solid form — sleet, snow or ice — Hedrick said the department will pretreat what it calls its brine route. Its a hierarchical plan of attack for Rowan County streets, starting with Interstate 85 and U.S. 70 before moving on to other numbered state and U.S. highways: 29, 52, 601, 152, 801 and others.

Local, heavily trafficked roads like Bringle Ferry, Stokes Ferry and Sherrills Ford will follow.

If heavy rain starts before freezing accumulations, the department will treat its bare pavement route during the storm.

Bare pavement routes, focusing on main roadways like 85 and 70, are treated during periods of snow, sleet and ice with salt and plowing.

They will be the only roads treated during downfall, until conditions clear enough for the department to transfer resources to other areas of heavy traffic, Hedrick said.

The city of Salisbury’s Public Services Department is working on its leaf collection initiative and will have to change the equipment to sanders and plows.

“Friday is going to be our critical day,” Public Services Assistant Director Craig Powers said about when crews will make the call and change over the equipment if necessary.

Powers said the city generally concentrates on leaf removal until after Christmas, then turns its resources to snow removal. He added the staff also is training. Meanwhile, crews are checking out their equipment and preparing.

If winter precipitation happens, he said, Public Services will concentrate on clearing primary roads to make hospitals, fire stations, police stations and EMS accessible.

Andie Foley and Liz Moomey contributed to this story.