It’s a comfortable 66 degrees and sunny early Monday afternoon but that was expected to change in a little more than 24 hours — a change that could result in Richmond County’s first snowfall this winter.
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for the county beginning at 4 p.m. on Tuesday and lasting until 4 p.m. on Wednesday. At approximately 6:15 p.m. Monday, Richmond County Schools alerted parents, students and staff there could be an early dismissal Tuesday due to the impending snow fall.
“In the event of inclement weather, Richmond County Schools may decide to release students early on Tuesday afternoon,” said Mallory Brown, director of public relations for the school system, in an email to The Daily Journal. “Please make arrangements for the possibility of an early dismissal.”
Shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday, Richmond Community College announced all of its locations will close at noon. In addition, all locations will be closed all of Wednesday. This includes all students, faculty and staff.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and will send a separate AlertNow message with any changes, delays or cancellations that arise,” Brown said.
Brown noted that all athletic and after-school activities for Tuesday afternoon and evening have been cancelled.
“A cold front will be coming through tonight to cool things down,” said Barrett Smith, a meteorologist for the NWS in Raleigh. “Starting early afternoon on Tuesday we should start to see some snow.”
Smith said that the NWS was pretty confidant that Richmond County would see just snow fall and no mixing of ice or rain.
Areas to the west of the county will likely not see as much snow. The current predicted accumulation of snow is 1 to 2 inches but up to 5 inches are possible, according to various weather models. The snow fall is expected to be heavier in the eastern part of North Carolina.
“The snow could come as soon as early afternoon and probably last until the early morning hours of Wednesday,” Smith said.
Starting this evening, temperatures will be below freezing with it getting as low as the upper teens during the night.
“We’re not expecting a lot of strong wind with this storm,” Smith said. “The wind chill will be around 20 during Tuesday with it getting into the single digits on Tuesday night.”
The NWS has stated that wind chills will be around 5 degrees on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.
Smith said the extremely cold weather will not last long as temperatures will climb back up into the mid-50s over the weekend.
The current batch of cold weather is unusual for the area, Smith said. It has been colder than normal for an extended amount of time. Also the fact that the eastern part of North Carolina getting heavier snow than the western part is also out of the ordinary for the state.
Residents of Richmond County should be prepared for the upcoming conditions.
“There shouldn’t be a lot of problems for the areas, but always take it easy on the roads,” Smith said. “Stay home if you can and try and stay off the back roads. I would suggest to make sure you’re prepared with supplies just in case the forecast changes.”
As of 3 p.m. today, North Carolina Department of Transportation trucks were roaming the county putting out brine on the primary roadways in Richmond County. Brine is a salty solution that is used on roads to help keep them clear of snow.
Hollie Allen, communications officer with the NCDOT, said that Richmond County’s NCDOT maintenance office has the equipment the county will need to prepare for any upcoming snow storm.
“The trucks have already put out 20,000 gallons of brine today,” Allen said early Monday afternoon. “If the trucks don’t finish putting out the solution on the main roads today, then they will finish it up in the morning.”
As stated above, the snow for the county is not supposed to start until around 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
“The main reason the brine is going out so far in advance is it will give the salt more time to stick to the roads,” Allen said. “This will help in keeping the roads clear and safe.”
Allen said that the Richmond County NCDOT will wait to start deciding further operations based on what the weather actually does.
“If the area gets more snow than anticipated, then the plows on the trucks will go at and start clearing the roads,” Allen said.
If for any reason Richmond County were to get more snow than the maintenance office would be able to handle, then surrounding counties who did not get as much snow will be able to send over people and equipment to help keep the roads clear for the residents in Richmond County, Allen said.