UPDATE: Chance of snow Sunday drops for coastal areas

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An updated map from the National Weather Service in Wilmington showing the probability of snowfall in the area on Sunday.
An updated map from the National Weather Service in Wilmington showing the probability of snowfall in the area on Sunday.

UPDATE: As of 10 a.m. Saturday, the probability of snow along the coast Sunday has decreased, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

While the inland parts of New Hanover and Brunswick County still have a 20 to 30 percent chance of accumulating snow of less than an inch, it drops to less than 20 percent in the easternmost parts of the counties, including the beaches. Any accumulation that occurs is expected to be wet and happen on grassy and elevated surfaces.

Rain and wind will be the strongest threats to the coastal areas. One to two inches of rain could fall Sunday, with the potential to cause flooding in some areas already saturated by the last rain event. Wind gusts of up to 45 miles per hour are also possible along the coast. The probability for rain and wind decreases further inland.

The greatest threat remains for those out in the water. A gale warning is already in effect for coastal waters and a storm warning is in effect for offshore waters due to dangerous sea conditions. Waves are expected to exceed 20 feet in open offshore waters.

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A coastal storm making its way to the region could produce snow in the area this weekend, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

As of Friday afternoon, the latest predictions show a 20 to 30 percent chance of snow accumulation of an inch or less in the greater Wilmington area on Super Bowl Sunday.

“Confidence is low at this time, but some areas could see an inch or more accumulation as the coastal storm pivots by the area,” stated the threat assessment briefing issued by Warning Coordination Meteorologist Steve Pfaff.

The precipitation is expected to start Saturday night after sunset, but forecasters are still unsure what form that will take. Flash flood warnings are possible, especially for areas along the coast and the Cape Fear River, if the area gets 1 to 2 inches of rain, as is currently expected. The heaviest rainfall is predicted to stay offshore. There is also a possibility the area will get nothing, depending on the path the storm takes.

“Nothing is certain yet. We’ll have a better idea over the next 18 to 24 hours,” said forecaster Dave Loewenthal of the NWS in Wilmington. “The models are showing varying intensities for the low pressure system and varying tracks.”

What is for certain is that temperature will drop, with overnight lows dropping into the 20s in some areas. Sunday is not expected to be much warmer, even during daylight hours.

“It’s possible we won’t get out of the 30s on Sunday,” Loewenthal said.

Strong winds are also expected, especially along the coast. Gusts of up to 30 to 40 miles per hour are possible and could cause power outages and damage to trees and utility poles.

The winds could pose problems for mariners, with a gale warning expected to be issued and a storm warning possible offshore.

“Hazardous navigation conditions are possible with intensifying offshore winds in the wake of the storm,” Friday’s afternoon briefing stated, saying the winds would blow water away from tidal creeks, channels and the Intracoastal Waterway. “This will create atypically shallow areas a few hours either side of low tide Sunday and Monday, causing vessels to run aground.”

The NWS in Wilmington will provide another update 10 a.m. Saturday. Check back for updates in this ongoing weather event.