Mild weather to give way to cold

See those clouds overhead? That's winter. Put away the shades, there's no ducking it this time.

The latest storm has arrived in a week of blasts that buried Northern states in snow and ice while the Lowcountry basked in a beach sun. The National Weather Service on Friday reported a record 80 degrees at the Charleston International Airport. It broke the previous record of 78 in 2001.

The storm predicted for today could drop the first good rain in the region in more than a month — while it blows another blizzard through New England. By this afternoon rainfall should be widespread, and the winds picking up.

"We're in a drought, so it's pretty hard to predict more than an inch of rain. But we have a pretty darn good shot of getting at least an inch," said meteorologist Jonathan Lamb, with the National Weather Service, Charleston.

Then the bottom drops out of the thermometer Sunday as the rain tapers off. The temperature isn't expected to be much higher than 60 degrees — a few notches above Friday night's low.

The low Sunday night is expected to be in the upper 20s inland. As winter pushes back through, it will be pretty breezy, Lamb said. Winds will blow 15-25 mph with gusts to 30 mph.

The rain, at least, is welcome news in the Lowcountry as well as the rest of the parched region. At the Charleston weather office, rainfall for the year is down nearly a foot.

So far for the winter, Lake Moultrie, the source for much of the drinking water in the metropolitan area, is holding its own — thanks to breaks from nature and a break from the Army Corps of Engineers.

It's down 6 to 6 1/2 feet but hasn't fallen significantly in more than a month.

Trees going dormant and less evaporation have allowed more water to pool, said Molly Gore, of Santee Cooper corporate communications. The Corps of Engineers is allowing Santee Cooper to cut by nearly 25 percent the spill from the lake into the Tailrace Canal and Cooper River, to help conserve the lake supply. Meanwhile, the seven-day forecast calls for a gradual warming trend, Lamb said.

Just about in time for Christmas.