Public Information Statement
Issued by NWS Newport/Morehead, NC

Home | Current Version | Previous Version | Text Only | Print | Product List | Glossary Off
Versions: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35

NOUS42 KMHX 041153

Public Information Statement
National Weather Service Newport/Morehead City NC
653 AM EST Mon Dec 4 2017

DECEMBER 3-9, 2017...

This week has been declared winter weather preparedness week in
North Carolina. All week long the National Weather Service will be
issuing informative messages to help you prepare for winter
weather. Each day we will cover a different topic. Today we will
talk about the anatomy of winter storms.

Winter weather is the most complex weather phenomena forecasters
face in North Carolina.  Winter storms bring significant and
sometimes rapid changes in the weather which greatly affects our
lives and safety. Winter storms can develop and last for just a
few hours or linger for days. Some of the worst winter storms in
North Carolina producing heavy snow and ice have trapped people in
their cars, and isolated residents in their homes without
utilities and other services for over a week. Even small amounts
of snow and ice can create havoc.

Winter storms result from a variety of weather patterns. North
Carolina sits in the battleground between cold air from the north
and warm moist air from the south. The timing of the cold air
colliding with moisture streaming in from the Gulf of Mexico and
Atlantic Ocean typically dictates the type of precipitation you
see falling in your backyard. Geography also plays a large role in
our weather. The Appalachian Mountains to the west and the warm
waters of the Gulf Stream just off the coast both play vital roles
in winter storm development. The mountains act to pile up cold air
over the state while the warm waters of the Gulf Stream provide
moisture and lots of energy to winter storms.

The most common and dangerous weather systems which can produce
snow and ice are strong coastal low pressure systems known as
nor`easters. Nor`easters are low pressure systems which develop
over the ocean and track northeast along the coast. The reason
North Carolina waters are so favorable for nor`easter development
is due to the proximity of the Gulf Stream. When cold air rushes
out over the ocean and the Gulf Stream, a very unstable and
volatile situation is created. When this instability combines with
the jet stream in the upper levels of the atmosphere, a massive
low pressure system known as a nor`easter can develop. This was
the case fourteen years ago on January 23rd, 2003 when 2 to 12
inches of snow fell across Eastern North Carolina.  3 to 4 foot
drifts were reported on the Outer Banks.

Cold air damming typically impacts the central and western
portions of the state. This occurs when cold high pressure over
New York and Pennsylvania pushes cold air south into the
Carolinas. This cold air is heavy and piles up against the
mountains as it rushes south. The mountains act as a dam causing
the cold air to deepen across the piedmont and sometimes as far
east as the coastal plain. When lighter, warm moist air coming up
from the south overruns the cold air at the surface, freezing
rain, sleet and snow can result.

Winter storms can make driving and walking extremely dangerous.
The aftermath of a major winter storm can have a devastating
impact for days, weeks, or even months. Winter storms can be
deceptive killers because most deaths are indirectly related to
the storm. People die in traffic accidents on icy roads, have
heart attacks while shoveling snow, or succumb to fires or carbon
monoxide while trying the heat their home improperly.  However,
with proper planning and preparation, you can limit or even
mitigate the impacts from winter storms.

Additional winter weather preparedness resources:
NWS winter safety page:
North Carolina Department of Public Safety preparedness page:
FEMA`s Winter preparedness page:

$$ is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.