CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolinas are in the path of a winter storm that could bring up to six inches of snow and sleet to Charlotte this weekend. In the mountains, more than a foot of snow is expected with some areas seeing projected totals of nearly 20 inches.

Chief meteorologist Brad Panovich said he's seen many wide-ranging projected snowfall totals for the Charlotte area but many of those models take all of the precipitation, be it snow, sleet, freezing rain or rain, and count them as snow. Panovich said those totals are often unreliable because they don't break down the different types of precipitation.

WHEN WILL WE SEE THE WINTER WEATHER?

As the winter storm approaches the Carolinas, Panovich has a better idea of the timing of the storm. The Charlotte area will start to feel the effects of the storm Saturday as really cold air from the Midwest wedges itself down into the Carolinas. Panovich said the cold rain will cause the temperature to quickly drop.

7 a.m. | Saturday morning: A lot of moisture will likely enter our atmosphere but will not reach the ground. This will cause the air temperature to rapidly drop.

The Asheville area will likely start to see some snow and ice early Saturday

Noon Saturday | The mountains will begin to see snow as the storm makes is way into the Carolinas

The Charlotte area will begin to see some sleet and rain

Panovich said after sunset on Saturday is when the weather quickly turns nasty.

2 a.m. Sunday | Sleet and freezing rain in the Charlotte area will try to transition back into snow

Throughout the day, Charlotte will see a mix of freezing rain and sleet.

7 a.m. Sunday | Things will really get nasty in Charlotte with the accumulation of sleet. Panovich said this is particularly dangerous for drivers on the road.

Panovich said as we go into Sunday evening we will continue to see a lot of freezing rain in the Charlotte area. The mountains will continue to see steady snowfall.

Monday morning | The snow from the Tennessee area will begin to make its way into Charlotte. Panovich predicts the Charlotte area could see up to 6" of snow.

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HOW MUCH SNOW WILL WE SEE

Panovich said he's not making any changes to his snowfall forecast at this time because it's still a little too early to tell exactly what Charlotte will get. There is strong confidence in big totals in the mountains and foothills, where the precipitation is expected to remain as snow throughout the storm.

Friday morning, First Warn forecaster Larry Sprinkle said Charlotte could get around 2-6 inches of snow and sleet. Depending on where the rain/snow line sets up, areas in north Charlotte could be closer to that six-inch number while areas south and east of uptown are closer to two inches or a trace.

Panovich said the current chances of 12" of snow in Charlotte are only around 20%.

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SNOW, SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN?

Snow forms when the atmospheric temperature near the clouds is low enough to freeze precipitation, while sleet is noticeably different from rain or snow because it is characterized by small ice pellets that will bounce off of objects. Even though this may sound more hazardous than freezing rain, that is not the case.

HOW SHOULD I PREPARE FOR THE STORM?

Now is the time to implement your winter weather plan if you live in the mountains, according to Panovich. Get whatever supplies you need to stay home for a few days and be prepared for power outages.

Tips from FEMA:

Now/Prepare: Sign up for local alerts and warnings. Create and test an emergency communication plan(s). Stock emergency supplies, and install battery-powered or battery backed-up carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors. Winterize your home. Visit this page to help you prepare. Review your property insurance, and safeguard critical documents. Get trained on specific needs your family may have. Also, consider joining your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Identify a place nearby where you can safely warm up should you lose heat in your home.

During/Survive: Stay indoors and off the roads. If you must drive, keep emergency supplies in your car. Close off rooms to consolidate and retain heat. Dress in layers, and use blankets to stay warm. Bring pets into a warm place and out of the storm or severe cold. Never use a generator, camp stove, charcoal grill, or gasoline or propane heater indoors, as these items can start accidental fires, cause electric shock, and/or cause deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Never heat a home with a cooktop or oven. Limit your time outdoors, and stay dry.

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