December snow historically hard to come by in Charlotte

December snow historically hard to come by in Charlotte
(Source: WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - One of the things that drove me to study meteorology was a love for the weather - and that seemingly anything is possible given the right conditions. I’ve joined hurricane hunters to do something most people would never do, fly right into the eye of a storm. In various places I’ve lived in this country, I’ve experienced blizzards, droughts, heatwaves and floods, and even the occasional white Christmas.

A white Christmas, now there's a rarity around the Charlotte area. In my 26 years at WBTV, there have been two dustings of snow on Christmas morning (1993 and 1998) and a half inch of snow fell Christmas night 2010.

But when you look at the record book in Charlotte, accumulating snow in December is in itself a pretty rare event. In the past 20 years, less than 3 inches IN TOTAL has fallen in the Queen City and since reliable record-keeping began in 1878, the average snowfall for the 12th month is a whopping 0.3 inches.

For those looking for a glimmer of hope for an early season snow in Char-Meck this weekend, it is noteworthy that of the dozen "greatest snowstorms" on record here, 4 have occurred during the month of December. Only one of them took place before December 16th.

Further proof, if you needed it, that a true "December snowstorm" is, in fact, a rarity in Charlotte: since 1936, there has been exactly one storm with more than 6 inches of snow. If you were here on December 3, 1971, you witnessed 7.5 inches of early season fluff.

But that’s it. One big December storm in 82 years.

So, the odds aren't good.

But, as Jim Carrey excitedly blurted out in the movie Dumb and Dumber, "(so you're telling me) there's a chance".

Yes, there's a chance.

But more than likely, the immediate Charlotte area will experience a mixture of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and plain old cold rain at various times from late Saturday through early Monday, with the better chance for a significant accumulation of snow confined to areas north and west of southern Piedmont.

Enough with history, let's get to the forecast...

Looking at the weather map today, not much has changed in the past 24 hours. Cold high pressure is still dominating the weather over much of the U.S. while our weekend storm is just now crashing ashore with rain in southern California. Snow flurries will fly in the mountains today, but the rest of us will have a decent amount of sunshine along with a chilly breeze and high temperatures only in the 40s.

The much-advertised storm system will slowly push east from California, moving through Texas late in the week before crossing north Florida spreading precipitation our way over the weekend. At the same time, cold high pressure will nose in from the north creating the set-up necessary for the first winter storm of the season for our part of the country.

(Source: WBTV)

With the above in mind, it seems a certainty that the North Carolina mountains and northern foothills will experience a substantial storm this weekend with accumulating snow and sleet.

The zone between I-85 and I-40 stands a decent chance at getting some snow and sleet but depending on the exact track of this storm, freezing rain and even plain rain would probably mix in at times.

As for Charlotte and points south of I-85, as stated above, climatology is not on our side for a lot of snow.

But again, nothing here is settled - yet.

There are still many issues to be resolved with this storm and the finer details will have to be worked out, but as of right now, confidence is high for a big dump of snow and ice in the mountains and northern foothills with much less confidence closer to Trade and Tryon Streets.

- Meteorologist Al Conklin

WBTV Wednesday morning weather forecast

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