As much as 10 inches of snow is being forecast over the next 48 hours for the Surry-Yadkin regions of North Carolina, which could come in as a top five extreme weather event for the area, according to a National Weather Service meteorologist.
“What we’re thinking about right now in terms of timing for starting looks like around 10 a.m.,” said James Clark, meteorologist at the National Weather Service center in Blacksburg, Va., which handles forecasting for this region.
Early Tuesday morning, the NWS issued a winter weather warning for this area.
Clark said the snowfall could begin as early as 9 a.m. for Yadkin County, and as early as 7 a.m. in Boone. “Southwest Surry around 10 a.m., and far northeast portions closer to 11 a.m.,” Clark reported.
The winter precipitation should taper off Thursday afternoon, but Clark said from the start of the winter storm until the end, the area will see “fairly steady persistent heavy snowfall.”
“There’s a possibility there could be some sleet as it wraps up, but we’re not expecting any freezing rain at this time. Farther south might see freezing rain, but I think that is farther down into South Carolina. Our counties in North Carolina are expecting just snowfall,” he said.
As far as accumulation is concerned, Clark said, “It’s still looking fairly high. It looks like it will be a significant event with eight to 10 inches for Wilkes and western Surry, and Yadkin and eastern Surry could see in the 10 to 12 inch range.”
Looking back over the history of snowfalls in the region, Clark said the last snowfall of 5 or more inches was Jan. 30, 2010, when Mount Airy saw 5 inches and Elkin received 7.4 inches at the official weather stations at each municipality’s water treatment plants. Elkin also saw 8 inches on Dec. 19, 2009, the same day Mount Airy recorded 7.5 inches.
But for extremes in Elkin, Clark reported snowfalls that came in at 12 inches on Feb. 19, 1979, which is tied with 12 inches on Feb. 13, 1960.
“If this exceeds 10 inches, it will be a top five event for sure,” Clark said.
Rock salt is scarce.
Local retail outlets say they have seen some increase in sales due to the incoming weather system, but not enough to warrant an emergency shipment.
“We had some rock salt here, but a local company who plows came in and purchased most of it,” said a store employee at Lowe’s Home Improvement in Elkin. “So there’s none left.”
Like Lowe’s, rock salt was not available at the Elkin Walmart, and Tractor Supply on North Bridge Street was out of rock salt, too. Items that were for sale at each location were the snow removal basics — shovels, gloves, batteries.
Elkin’s Public Works Department was observed spreading brine along roadways in advance of the storm.
“We’re out placing brine on our roads,” said Robert Fuller, director of Elkin Public Works. “We have 30 miles of roadway to treat. Each of our trucks can provide brine for about three miles and then we refill at our station next to the Elkin Recreation Center.”
Salt brine is a salt and water mix that is applied to roadway surfaces before snow begins to fall. Often seen as a series of fuzzy white lines on the road, this liquid brine solution helps prevent the bonding of snow and ice to pavements, according to Fuller. Pre-treating roads with salt brine before a snow storm helps melt the snow and ice as it hits the roadway surface, which reduces immediate accumulations allowing crews to get a jump on the snow.
“That’s what we’ll be doing all night long and until the roads are clear,” said Fuller. “I have crews coming in shifts. We’ll have workers handling roadways around the clock.”
Fuller said it would be easier if people stay off the roads until the storm passes.
All area school systems announced closures for Wednesday late Tuesday afternoon, including Elkin City, Surry County, Yadkin County and Bridges Academy. Some of those will have optional teacher workdays.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor. Anthony Gonzalez contributed to this story and may be followed on Twitter @newsgonz.