Friday, March 7, 2014

Charlotte did get ice ... a couple hundred feet above ground

Those of us who live on the ground in Charlotte are undoubtedly very happy that we managed to avoid the crippling ice storm that hit about a 15-county area in North Carolina to our north and northeast.

Early Friday afternoon, there were more than 400,000 power outages in the state -- the result of several hours of freezing rain that fell early Friday from the strong winter storm that is finally pushing out to sea.

That will make this storm one of the worst in state history, from a standpoint of power outages. Certainly, it's the most damaging winter storm in more than a decade.

As you've probably heard, Charlotte barely escaped the freezing rain. You didn't have to go very far north -- just to southern Iredell County or the northern parts of Cabarrus and Stanly counties -- to see the glaze on trees and power lines. Several trees and lines were downed in Mooresville, for example.

But not all of Charlotte escaped the ice.

While the city's ground temperature hovered at 33 degrees from Thursday evening until around daybreak Friday, it was a degree or so colder just a few hundred feet above the ground. And if you live or work in one of the taller of the high-rise buildings in the city, you probably saw ice outside your windows Friday morning.

As temperatures gradually warmed a few degrees Friday morning, that high-rise ice began to fall.

According to police, falling ice broke a car windshield about 10 a.m. in front of the Bank of America Corporate Center on North Tryon Street. At another of the city's big buildings, the Duke Energy Center, falling ice was reported a couple times during the morning.  Employees reported that a main entrance was closed for safety reasons.

For much of Thursday, we talked about how Charlotte would be near the dividing line between rain and frozen precipitation. The ice on the big buildings uptown was a reminder of that.

Unusual storm: If you've lived in the Carolinas for any length of time, you know that ice storms are rather rare for March.  I saw several lists of ice storms in this part of the country, but we're talking about only a half-dozen or so icing events over the past 40 or 50 years.

For freezing rain to develop, you need a pocket of cold air near the ground. And that usually requires a strong and very cold high pressure system over the Northeast to supply the layer of cold air near the surface in the Carolinas.  Those are not very common in March, when climatology begins saying "spring."

But this has been a different winter. Since early January, there has been episode after episode of polar air masses pushing into the continental United States. That was the case again this week, and the result was an ice storm over parts of North Carolina.

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

YAWN...old news...SNORE.