Winter getting an early start

  By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  Winter may officially begin Dec. 21 but weather forecasters expect the season to open early this week in many parts of the country including East Tennessee.
  After two days of heavy rainfall, Northeast Tennessee's highlands saw several inches of snowfall on Saturday with cold winter weather looming for the coming week.
  National Weather Service in Morristown issued a heavy snow warning on Saturday for the Smoky Mountains and the mountainous areas of Northeast Tennessee with accumulations of 4 to 8 inches expected. The NWS issued a winter storm warning on Saturday night for Avery, Yancey, Watauga, and Madison counties in North Carolina.
  Derek Eisentrout, a forecaster with the NWS office in Morristown, said Carver's Gap area on Roan Mountain had received 6 to 8 inches of snow through Saturday evening.
  "We didn't get hardly anything at the lower elevations at all," said Eisentrout. "Anything that did come down in the valley did not stick."
  The snowfall resulted from a cold front that hovered over the area for three days drenching the region with rainfall. The weather service reported some areas of Northeast Tennessee received over two inches of rain since Thursday evening.
  "We've had sort of a flip flop," said NWS forecaster Loren Marz. "The West Coast was getting quite a bit of the stormy weather."
  The NWS predicts an even colder week with high temperatures staying in the 30s and lows falling into the teens by midweek. Winds are expected between 20 to 40 miles per hour today and Monday. Marz said the early season chill was typical for the season as the upper level air flow became more volatile.
  "We've been having a southwest flow which is more of a warm flow," Marz said. "We are now in this northwest flow.
  "It looks like it is going to hang on for the better part of the coming week."
  Road conditions in Carter County's highland areas were becoming treacherous as temperatures fell on Saturday night. The NWS forecast called for an end to snow showers by midnight Saturday with little additional accumulation expected.
  So does this pre-winter cold spell mean an elusive white Christmas is possible for East Tennessee?
  "It is way, way far out to (predict) anything at all," Marz said.