UPDATE: 9:30 a.m., Friday
The freezing rain advisory for inland New Hanover and Brunswick counties has been removed.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service (NWS) lifted the advisory at about 9 a.m. Friday. Scattered rainfall is expected throughout New Hanover and Brunswick counties, according to Steve Pfaff, NWS warning coordination meteorologist. Predictions of moderate to heavy rain today could accumulate between 1 to 2 inches of rainfall.
Inland Pender County continues to be under a freezing rain advisory until 1 p.m. Friday, with little accumulation expected as temperatures rise above freezing throughout the day across the region.
Along the coast, the combination of offshore winds and low astronomical tides as a result of the full moon will likely lead to a period of low water across the Interacoastal Waterway. Very low waters, especially around low-tide, can be expected in creeks, inlets and portions of the waterway.
Locals should prepare for icy precipitation this weekend as a major winter storm hits the eastern seaboard, according to the National Weather Service office in Wilmington.
On Thursday afternoon, the inland parts of New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties were put on a freezing rain advisory until 11 a.m. Friday. Rainfall will hit the area Thursday evening, possibly turning into freezing rain overnight as temperatures drop. By early afternoon Friday, normal rain is expected.
Forecasters are predicting an average of one to two inches of rain Friday, with more possible along the coast. A graphic from the Weather Prediction Center shows the potential for freezing rain in New Hanover County ranges from one to 20 percent.
According to the NWS, the accumulation of up to 0.1 inches of ice is possible in some of the areas under advisory. Maps provided by warning coordination meteorologist Steve Pfaff show that locally, the greatest chance of ice accumulation is in the northwestern parts of New Hanover and Brunswick counties as well as the entire inland part of Pender County.
Localized flooding is also possible, especially in low-lying areas and places with poor drainage systems. The rivers are expected to rise, potentially causing problems for those along the water.
In addition to the freezing rain advisory, the NWS has issued a small craft advisory for coastal waters until Friday. There is also a marginal risk for severe thunderstorms in the coastal areas, with the potential for strong wind gusts and an isolated tornado.
Flights at Wilmington International Airport have already been affected. According to ILM Deputy Director Gary Broughton, American Airlines has already canceled all their flights in and out of Wilmington on Friday except for their two flights to New York-LaGuardia. Delta Airlines, which operates direct flights to Atlanta, has not canceled any flights as of Thursday afternoon.
“The airport will be open, there just won’t be many flights,” said Broughton, who said passengers should call their respective carriers rather than the airport for the most updated information on flights. “We try to keep up with the airlines, but it’s really an airline issue.”
Though some flights are still scheduled Friday, Broughton said they are subject to change overnight. Though there will be staff on hand at the airport to help with rebooking, Broughton said travelers should call their airline before leaving for the airport in case of changes. So far, the cancellations only affect Friday’s flights. Decisions about Saturday flights will be made as the storm rolls in and weather updates are given.
Colder air entering the area following Friday’s storm could produce a wintry mix on Saturday, but no accumulation is expected. During the entirety of the weather event, residents can expect hazardous driving conditions (particularly on bridges and overpasses) as well as possible power outages and downed lines and trees.
Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in North Carolina on Thursday in anticipation of the storm.