Heavy rain, strong winds and snow are possible this weekend across the Southeast | CNN


Heavy rain and severe storms could lead to damaging winds and flooding this weekend as a rapidly developing low pressure system pushes into the Southeast. This same system could also bring snow as far south as Georgia Sunday morning, as temperatures drop behind the cold front.

“Heavy rain, strengthening winds, and possibly severe thunderstorms are expected to expand across the Southeast on Saturday,” the Weather Prediction Center said.

A Level 2 out of 5 threat for severe storms has been issued for Saturday across portions of northern Florida, where strong to damaging winds and isolated tornadoes are possible. Cities under this risk include Tallahassee, Gainesville and Jacksonville. There is also a Level 1 threat for Tampa, Orlando, and Spring Hill, Florida.

“Winds will also be a concern given the strength of the low pressure system, the National Weather Service Office in Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina, said. “There`s also the potential for gravity waves to help force stronger winds to the surface.”

Gusty winds are expected along the spine of the southern and central Appalachians which could reach as high as 40 mph.

In addition to the severe threat, a Level 2 out of 4 risk for excessive rainfall has been posted across portions of northern Florida, southeast Georgia, and South Carolina. Flooding is possible from Birmingham, Alabama, to Wilmington, North Carolina, down to Gainesville, Florida. Widespread rainfall totals through Sunday are expected to be between 2 and 3 inches, but some locally higher amounts of 4 to 6 inches are possible across northern Florida, including Tallahassee, and southern Georgia, including Valdosta.

Many southern cities, including Tallahassee and Atlanta, will be at risk for flooding due to the ground already being saturated because of recent rains and a wet start to the year.

Since January, Atlanta and Macon in Georgia, and Columbia in South Carolina have all had a surplus of 2 to 4 inches of rain. This will allow for saturation and water run-off to occur more quickly than under normal conditions.

“By Saturday night into Sunday morning, heavy wet snow and/or sleet are expected to develop near/over the central and southern Appalachians when the low pressure system is forecast to further intensify and track near the Carolina coastline,” the prediction center said.

Winter weather alerts are in effect for portions of western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, western Virginia and eastern Kentucky through Sunday.

Snow accumulation will be generally up to 4 inches but highest elevations, such as Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, have the potential to see up to a foot.

Some snow flurries will mix in with rainfall in the lower elevations, though accumulations are expected to remain light.

“There continues to be good agreement on rain changing to snow across the mountains,” the Greenville-Spartanburg office said. “There even appears to be the potential for a brief period of snow outside of the mountains late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. The North Carolina Foothills would be in a transition zone where some accumulating snow is possible.”

The weather service office also emphasizes that while this set up can be good for wintry precipitation, the lack of cold air to start the weekend is the limiting factor. In other words, the snow forecast is uncertain, but the potential is there.

Snow isn’t the only concern for the region – ice may lead to travel hazards through the weekend as well.

“[We] will also have mixed winter precipitation, with some light freezing rain and sleet adding to the travel impact but lessening the potential snow totals,” the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg, Virginia, said.

Even places as far south as Georgia could see some snow, although don’t get your hopes up for any of it to stick to the ground.

“It is becoming more and more likely that portions of North Georgia will see a mix of rain and melting snow throughout Sunday morning,” the National Weather Service office in Atlanta said. “It’s possible that falling snow could be thick at times, however, with surface temperatures in the mid to upper 30s there may be a big difference in the amount of snow that FALLS, and the amount of snow that STICKS as accumulations could quickly melt.”

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