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WEATHER ALERT: Flood, winter storm watches issued for parts of North Georgia

UPDATE 9:50 P.M. SATURDAY: Severe Weather Team 2 is reporting the winter weather system “is bringing some snow to the far northeast corner of Georgia and rain and possible frozen precipitation to the metro Atlanta area.” 

Earlier in the evening, Channel 2 Action News' Chris Jose crossed the North Georgia line into North Carolina, where rain has totally turned over to snow.

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North Georgia could see heavy rain this weekend, and some areas in the northeast corner of the state could get snow and ice, according to Channel 2 Action News.

The National Weather Service has issued a series of watches ahead of the storms. A flood watch for all of north and central Georgia is scheduled to go into effect Saturday morning until Sunday night, and several northeast Georgia counties will be under winter storm watches beginning Saturday night. 

 

A winter storm watch will be in effect Saturday night until 1 a.m. Monday for 15 North Georgia counties, including Gwinnett, Forsyth, Hall, Barrow and Clarke counties, according to the National Weather Service. Another winter storm watch for Habersham and Rabun counties begins at 7 p.m. Saturday and expires at noon Monday.  

 

On Sunday morning, a third winter storm watch will go into effect for Lumpkin, Towns, Union and White counties from 1 a.m. until 1 a.m. Monday.

Channel 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz said Rabun County is the prime target for snow and ice. The changeover to wintry precipitation could begin as early as noon Saturday, and it is expected to ramp up heading into Sunday morning. 

Significant snowfall accumulation is possible, Nitz said. 

“The snow expands over parts of far northeast Georgia at the highest elevations,” he said. “The potential for some freezing rain extends a little bit farther to the south and east. Exactly where this line is, that’s something that we are going to be fine-tuning here really as the system develops — even through Saturday night into Sunday morning.”

The Weather Service predicts 5 to 8 inches of snow are possible along the highest ridges in Rabun, as well as up to two-tenths of an inch of ice. Lesser amounts are expected southeast of I-85 and across Habersham County.

Travel could become very difficult or even impossible, with conditions deteriorating as early as Saturday evening, the Weather Service said in an advisory.

 

Most of the winter weather will be confined to the northeast, but Nitz said he would not be surprised to see some freezing rain reach metro Atlanta on Sunday.  

“It certainly looks like we have the potential for at least some light freezing rain as far south as Hall County, Forsyth County, Dawson County, even potentially northern sections of Gwinnett ... (and) extreme northern-northeast Fulton County.”

RELATED: Gwinnett schools keep eye on possible wintry weather

“Ice is the other concern,” he said. “It is going to be covering a larger area.”

 

Nitz said he expects up to one-tenth of an inch of ice across northeast Georgia. The best chance of measurable ice accumulations will be north and east of Homer to Gainesville and Dawsonville, according to the Weather Service.

 

There could also be strong winds on Sunday morning, complicating things further. 

“You put a one-tenth of an inch of ice on trees and power lines, and you add those 20-25 mph winds, and we certainly could see some power outages as trees or tree limbs come down on power lines,” Nitz said. 

For the rest of North Georgia, it will be a soaking rain. Widespread rainfall of 2 to 3 inches is expected, and most of that will fall on Saturday, Nitz said. Some areas south of I-20 could see higher amounts.

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With heavy rain, minor flooding is possible. With the ground already saturated and rivers running high, the Weather Service said any additional rain will result in high runoff and potentially cause flooding of some rivers and streams.

 

“Saturday and Sunday I don’t expect any snow in Atlanta, but from Sunday night into Monday morning, it’s possible we could see a little bit of a rain-snow mix develop in and around metro Atlanta,” Nitz said. “Right now I’m going to put that probability at about 40 percent.”

Most of the rain should be gone by then, but leftover moisture could work with colder air behind the system. If it happens, Nitz said, it would be light.

“It is something that would impact travel Monday morning, so we are going to be watching that very carefully,” he said. 

 

The Georgia Department of Transportation is making preparations for whatever comes.

 

The agency has brine — the anti-icing salt solution crews spray on roads before sleet, freezing rain or snow comes through — ready to go to treat roads.

“Our crews are getting ready, doing some of those last-minute tune ups on the brine trucks, on our plows, making sure everything is running correctly, checking oil, making sure the tires are inflated, getting ready for what might potentially hit,”  GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale told Channel 2.

Mike Jett (left) and Bobby Garza (right) prepare brine trucks Friday morning at a Georgia Department of Transportation facility in Forest Park. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

—Please return to AJC.com for updates. 

» For a detailed forecast, visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution weather page.

» Download The Atlanta Journal-Constitution app for weather alerts on-the-go.

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