February 4: Spring-like Temperatures, Spring-like Storms

Weather

WEATHER

For the third straight February, we’re getting a prolonged stretch of spring-like temperatures in central North Carolina. Thickening clouds today will keep us a few degrees cooler than Monday, but we’ll still reach the upper 60s and low 70s this afternoon.

Despite the clouds, we won’t see much of a rain chance today. The HRRR model’s radar simulation from 10:00am through 10:00pm shows a few radar freckles, and that’s it.

The clouds and southwesterly winds will keep temperatures mild overnight — we’ll only drop to the upper 50s by early Wednesday morning.

It’s right back up to near 70° for highs again on Wednesday, but some cooler air will try to intrude into our northern counties in the afternoon.

That temperature contrast will help focus a better chance of showers over the northern half of central North Carolina. The European forecast model’s simulation from 7:00am through 11:00pm Wednesday shows light off-and-on showers…not a washout, but enough that you should keep the umbrella handy.

The heaviest rain will move in on Thursday. Here’s the European model again, from 4:00am Thursday through 10:00am Friday, showing waves of heavy rain moving in from the west.

Two hazards will accompany Thursday’s rain chances: the potential for too much rain leading to localized flooding, and the threat of severe thunderstorms. Let’s tackle the heavy rain threat first, since that’s more straightforward. The Weather Prediction Center’s 5-day rainfall estimate (most of which will fall Thursday and Thursday night) shows central North Carolina in the transition zone between around 1″ of rain southeast of the Triangle, to more than 3″ of rain farther to the west.

If you live in or regularly drive through any flood-prone locations, you may encounter some issues late Thursday — especially as more rain falls on the already-saturated ground. We’ll likely see a Flash Flood Watch issued for at least the western half of central North Carolina.

The severe thunderstorm threat is more tenuous — there will be a lot of wind energy in the atmosphere on Thursday, but temperatures will be very borderline for supporting a significant severe threat. The Storm Prediction Center has included most of central North Carolina in a “Slight Risk” (level 2 of 5) of severe weather.

The model data is divided on whether we’ll see a significant severe risk in central North Carolina. The SPC’s own forecast model keeps the strongest storms to our west until after midnight…the late-night timing would reduce our severe threat. That model estimates a 30%-40% chance of storms with severe ingredients late Thursday night.

The “analog” forecast method is useful in situations like this — it compares Thursday’s forecast pattern to similar historical patterns, to give us a range of possibilities. The analog model indicates a 40%-ish chance of more than five severe reports Thursday and Thursday night. (“Severe report” in this case is defined as 60+mph wind gusts or a tornado.)

We’ll be watching the timing very carefully: the earlier the storms move in, the more likely it is that we’ll see severe thunderstorm warnings issued for a damaging wind threat. With so much wind energy in the atmosphere, we can’t rule out the possibility of an isolated tornado either.

The rain should move out Friday morning, and temperatures will return to near-normal levels as we head into the weekend. One more brief round of showers scoots through Saturday night.

A more modest warming trend will kick in again next week, and a parade of ripples in the atmosphere will give us some (lighter) rain chances Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

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