The National Weather Service expects Craven and Jones counties to be a transition zone for expected winter weather, with forecasters saying the exact amount of rain, sleet or snow remains in doubt for Saturday.
"There is still a lot of uncertainty with the forecast," Rich Bandy, with the National Weather Service in Newport, said during an 11 a.m. conference call with emergency officials and media.
"There has been a trend for it to be a little warmer," he added, meaning the expected change from rain to wintry precipitation may take longer, thus reducing the potential for a heavy snowfall event in the New Bern area.
If that precipitation comes in the form of sleet or freezing rain, downed power lines and tree limbs are a possibility, leading to some power outages.
He did say areas north and west of New Bern, such as Greenville and Kinston, could see 3 to 6 inches of snow.
Either way, Bandy added, road conditions around New Bern and Craven County are expected to be hazardous as some amount of wintry precipitation beginning early Saturday morning to Saturday afternoon is anticipated. Saturday low temperatures in the teens will cause any moisture to freeze on the roads, and with Sunday's high temperatures expected to be around freezing, a rapid thaw is not expected.
"This will be lingering into early next week," he said.
The storm is also expected to produce some coastal flooding along the Neuse River, perhaps as much as a foot, in areas of Pamlico County and eastern Craven County.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for Craven, Pamlico and other Eastern North Carolina counties shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday.
Uncertainty continues regarding exact precipitation type and amounts, the National Weather Service reported. Amounts hinge on the eventual track and strength of the surface low moving along the coast, but all areas could see some snow accumulation with possibly some light ice accumulation for areas south of U.S. 70.
Confidence is increasing that several inches of snow will be possible across portions of the area, with the highest totals likely extending from the Albemarle Sound region down into the coastal plain, according to the National Weather Service. Lower confidence continues for potential accumulations along the immediate coast.
Primary impacts will be to roadways affecting travel. Bridges and overpasses will be especially vulnerable. Travel Friday night into Sunday could be hazardous.
The onset of the winter precipitation will likely begin as rain or rain/snow mix inland Friday night. The wintry precipitation will likely transition to snow inland late Friday night and early Saturday, with a wintry mix along the coast. A wintry mix with light freezing rain and sleet could develop for areas south of U.S. 70 early Saturday, before transitioning to snow. Precipitation is expected to transition to all snow along the coast late Saturday, however some uncertainty continues on how much moisture will be left as cold air arrives. Expect snow to taper off Saturday evening from west to east.
Wintry precipitation is expected to end Saturday evening, but roadways will likely remain hazardous into Sunday, possibly into Monday depending on snowfall amounts. Temperatures will drop into the teens and 20s Saturday night, and highs will struggle to reach freezing for many locations Sunday. Snow and ice covered roads could become a serious issue.
Wind chill values in the single digits Sunday and Monday mornings. Very cold temperatures in the teens to low 20s combined with north/northwesterly winds will result in wind chill values in the single digits Sunday and Monday mornings.
Minor coastal flooding for areas adjacent to the Pamlico Sound, high surf and minor ocean over-wash along the Outer Banks possible. Strong north winds are expected to develop Saturday, and produce minor coastal flooding for soundside areas from Oregon Inlet down to Downeast Carteret county, with water level rises of 1 to 2 feet. High surf and minor ocean over-wash may also occur along the northern and central Outer Banks, particularly during times of high tide. Winds will diminish slightly Sunday.
Though uncertainty remains regarding exact snowfall amounts, forecast confidence is increasing that several inches of snow will be possible across portions of the area. At this time think highest totals will extend from the Albemarle Sound region down into the coastal plain. All areas could see snowfall accumulation.