North Carolina Weather - If You Don't Like It, Just Wait a Few Minutes
North Carolina's climate is generally categorized as being subtropical. Winters are normally short and mild, while summers can be hot and humid. The spring and fall seasons provide refreshing periods of transition.
In most of the state, the temperature seldom hits the 100°F mark. Differences in altitude and proximity to the ocean are responsible for significant variations in weather from the mountains to the beaches.
The three geographical divisions of North Carolina provide good reference points for breaking down the climate of the state. The coastal plain is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, which helps to keep temperatures mild in the winter and somewhat moderate in the summer. Daytime high temperatures on the coast average less than 89 °F in the summer months. During the winter, the coast has the mildest temperatures in the state, with daytime temperatures usually above 40 °F The coastal plain normally receives only about one inch of snow and/or ice annually, and in some years there may be no winter precipitation at all.
The Atlantic Ocean has less influence on the Piedmont region. Therefore, the Piedmont has hotter summers and colder winters than the coast. Highs in hottest portion of the summer in the Piedmont can average over 90 °F. It is not very common for temperatures to reach over 100 °F in North Carolina. Extreme highs are normally found in the lower areas of the Piedmont near the Fayetteville area.
In the winter, the Piedmont is much cooler than the coast. Daytime temperatures usually reach in the mid to upper 50's, as opposed to the low to mid 60's near the coast. The region normally averages from 3-5 inches of snow annually in the Charlotte area to 6-8 inches in the Raleigh-Durham area. Sleet and freezing rain are common in the Piedmont, with icing bad enough to bring down tree and power lines. Annual precipitation, which averages about 40 inches per year, is lower in the Piedmont than in the coast or the mountains.
Of course, the mountain region is the coolest area of the state. Daytime temperatures average in the 40's for highs in the winter and often fall into the teens or lower on winter nights. Summer temperatures are relatively cool, rarely rising above 80 °F. Snowfall in the mountains normally comes in at about 14-20 inches per year, but is often much greater at the higher elevations. During a blizzard in 1993, over 50 inches of snow fell on Mount Mitchell.
The state is certainly not immune from severe weather. On average, the state receives a direct hit from a hurricane once a decade and from a tropical storm every 3 or 4 years. However, during active storm years, the state has been impacted by several hurricanes and tropical storms that either make direct hits or brush the coast. Only Florida and Louisiana are hit by more hurricanes.
Strong hurricanes that take a path that moves them inland can impact any area of the state.
In 1989, the inland trek of Hurricane Hugo brought heavy damage to the Charlotte area and was even a menace to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the northwestern part of the state.
Normally, North Carolina experiences about 50 days of thunderstorm activity each year, with some storms severe enough to produce damaging winds and/or hail. A few of these storms develop into tornadoes, especially in the Piedmont. The average is a little less than 20 per year. Some of these are produced in the coastal counties by tropical storms or hurricanes.
Coldest temperature ever recorded in North Carolina: -34°F (January 21, 1985 on Mt. Mitchell)
Hottest temperature ever recorded in North Carolina: 110°F (August 21, 1983 at Fayetteville)