Monday's dusting a prelude to larger storms

Feb. 10, 2014 @ 11:46 PM

CHARLOTTE — Light snow in the mountains and Piedmont on Monday marked the first act of a three-day weather drama that will likely leave most of North Carolina coated with a mixture of icy precipitation.

The National Weather Service reported that the first part of the system arrived with a dusting of snow in portions of the state, with up to 3 inches of snow in the higher elevations.

A winter storm watch is in effect for much of North Carolina from Tuesday through Thursday morning. Forecasters say the second day of the weather system will drop light snow from Charlotte east to Fayetteville and near the coast with up to 2 inches anticipated before that storm tapers off.

Wednesday's finale shapes up as the worst day of the three. Jonathan Blaes, a meteorologist at the weather service in Raleigh, said a large area of precipitation will spread south to north, covering the entire state by the afternoon.

"We're going to have a good 12 to 24 hours of precipitation across the state," Blaes said, calling the last day of weather "a classic North Carolina, mid-Atlantic storm."

Snow will be heaviest in the mountains, with up to 6 inches possible. Snow, sleet and freezing rain are expected for the Piedmont. The coastal plain will see rain and freezing rain, according to Blaes, with 3 to 6 inches in the more populous areas and lesser amounts to the east.

Blaes also warned of icing from east of Charlotte to Raleigh on Wednesday, enough to bring down trees and power lines. With temperatures hovering at or below freezing, Blaes said residents in the affected areas will face some challenges.

"Somebody's going to be hit pretty hard with trees down and power lines down. Folks without power will be in for some tough times," he said.

The N.C. Department of Transportation began applying a mixture of salt water onto major highways across the state, although rain on Monday may have washed some of the solution off the roads. A department spokeswoman said truck would be ready to apply another coating if necessary.