Onslow County residents can expect impacts from a winter storm this weekend; but whether you see freezing rain, sleet or snow depends on the track of low pressure being watched closely by forecasters.
While uncertainty remained Thursday over the type of wintry precipitation and accumulation amounts, several inches of snowfall is anticipated across portions of Eastern North Carolina. However, a late-afternoon shift in the forecast showed more of a wintry mix of precipitation for the local area.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for Greene, Pitt, Martin, Washington and Tyrell counties. The remainder of the forecast area, including Onslow, Carteret, Jones and Duplin counties, is under a winter storm watch effective from 10 Friday to 1 a.m. Sunday.
The forecast on Thursday continued to show Onslow County split between two forecast zones, with the bulk of the county falling within a transition area between counties with the best chance of snow and the coast, where it’s less likely.
“It is tough to nail down what is going to happen in Zone B and C (in which Onslow County is located),” Rich Bandy, Meteorologist-in-Charge for the National Weather Service forecast office in Newport, said during a Thursday briefing.
Warmer model trends reduced expected snowfall totals across the area, with a large part of the forecast area expected to experience a mixture of freezing rain, sleet and snow through the event.
The best chance for snow within the forecast area is in zone A, which includes the Greenville area.
Kinston, New Bern, Maysville and most of Onslow County from Jacksonville inland toward Richlands fall in the expanded transitional zone B, where more of a mix of precipitation is expected. Precipitation will likely begin as rain and then change to a mix of snow and sleet and/or freezing rain.
Swansboro to Sneads Ferry and the beach area are in Zone C, which will see minimal accumulation of snow, sleet or ice.
Accumulations of snow and sleet of 1 to 3 inches is possible with some freezing rain accumulations of around of a tenth of an inch possible in the transition zone that includes most of Onslow County.
The forecast was expected to remain the same much of the day Thursday, but changes were possible overnight.
And regardless of the potential snowfall, the entire area can expect dangerous road conditions and bitter cold temperatures for several days. Accumulations on trees could also result in downed limbs on power lines, resulting in sporadic power outages.
“We’re going to see some low temperatures. Even if we don’t see a lot of snow, the roads are going to be treacherous,” Bandy said.
The cold temperatures and wintry precipitation will mean potentially slick, icy roads, with overpasses and bridges especially vulnerable.
Onslow County Emergency Services Director Norman Bryson said specific impacts to Onslow County remained uncertain Thursday and residents should continue to monitor the forecast closely and be aware that travel conditions will likely be hazardous throughout the area.
“Citizens need to stay advised of weather conditions, as forecasts continuously change. Onslow County citizens do need to be prepared for some form of winter precipitation in the county Friday night into Saturday,” Bryson said. “If we do have any accumulation of ice or snow, anyone who does not have to be on a roadway during those times should avoid driving.”
Department of Transportation maintenance crews began work Thursday in Onslow County to spray primary routes such as highways 24 and 70, including the bypass in Jacksonville, with brine, said Andy Davis, NCDOT maintenance supervisor for Onslow County.
Brine is a saltwater solution that lowers the freezing temperature on treated surfaces and helps keep ice and snow from bonding to the pavement.
Davis said work will likely continue into Friday and depending on forecast updates, they’ll treat other areas as needed.
Davis said they’ll have crews working throughout the storm to address problem areas along the roads and to clear roadways of snow or ice as needed during the storm event.
“Whatever the storm brings, we’ll be here,” Davis said.
According to DOT information, maintenance crews in Division 2, which includes Carteret and Jones counties, will also begin applying brine to major thoroughfares.