It does not appear that Centre County will get the luxury of easing into the winter weather season, as Thursday’s storm is expected to bring several inches of snow, sleet and freezing rain to the region.
“It’s going to be pretty messy around here during the day tomorrow into tomorrow night, so people should be safe if they have to go out,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Paul Walker said Wednesday.
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According to AccuWeather’s projections, snow is going to spread over the Centre County region starting in the late morning Thursday, around 8-10 a.m. After an accumulation of about 2-4 inches, the snow is expected to turn to sleet or freezing rain by mid-late afternoon.
With a high of 30 degrees, temperatures are expected to stay below freezing on Thursday, making for slippery and dangerous roads, Walker said.
The freezing rain and sleet is expected to continue into Thursday evening, when it could turn back into snow, and pick up an additional inch of accumulation.
The National Weather Service in State College issued a winter storm warning for portions of central Pennsylvania, including Centre County, from 8 a.m. Thursday through 6 a.m. Friday. The storm watch advises that heavy mixed precipitation is expected, with total snow and sleet accumulation of 4-6 inches and about one-tenth of an inch of ice. Motorists should plan on difficult travel conditions and reduced visibility, NWS said.
Accumulation amounts for early-season snowstorms can be difficult to predict, Walker said.
“Part of the problem is trying to figure out how much is going to accumulate on the ground. The ground is still, while it’s been cold recently, it’s still not totally frozen,” he said. “Also, the general air mass can bring warm air up from the south and get mixed into these storms. That’s why that warm air loft is going to cause this snow to change over to sleet, freezing rain.”
The incoming storm, which The Weather Channel is calling Winter Storm Avery, is going to be the result of several different systems moving together, Walker said.
“There’s a system that’s back near St. Louis, Mo., and a low pressure that’s going to be forming along the southern North Carolina coast, and those systems are going to work in tangent to move northward,” he said. “And the one that’s along the coast will become the main storm, eventually. That’s the storm that’s going to bring us this messy storm tomorrow morning into tomorrow night.”
With the possibility of freezing rain does come a risk for power outages, as ice can weigh heavily on tree branches and power lines. But if the precipitation ends up being more sleet and less ice, that will be less of an issue.
To keep safe and warm during a power outage, AccuWeather encourages people to use towels and blankets to block drafts from under doors and windows, run water at a trickle to keep pipes from freezing, place generators away from doors and windows and vents to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, keep stocked up on nonperishable foods, make sure to have a portable phone charger in case of emergency, and to keep children and pets calm and warm.
With heavy precipitation expected, Walker also cautioned those with underlying health or heart conditions to exercise caution when shoveling snow, and to avoid shoveling too much in a short period of time, as shoveling can be a trigger for heart attacks.
By Friday afternoon, Walker said temperatures should rise above freezing again, and the snow should clear up.