Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"The Cold Hard Facts..."

And so pretty much all of us are cringing for the incoming frigid temperatures as well as the cha-ching of the heating bills climbing north. Luckily here in the Carolinas we're not going to complicate matters with any precipitation, though the higher elevations in the NC mountains have a bit of a problem...though it's only been an inch or so of snow, there will be little if any melting until the weekend, with icy roads ruling in many places. However...

Ashe County, NC snow depth 3/17/1960
NC DOT files

...that's an itty bitty drop in the bucket compared to the severe issues western NC had back in the late winter of 1960. For over a month snows averaged every other day, leading to emergency drops of food and fuel to many mountain locations, clearly locked down in the dangerously frozen conditions. Boone had 44" of measured snowfall, with significantly deeper drifts...and some locations measured up to 85-inches of snowfall. A bit too much of a good thing, eh?

In the winter of 1998-1999, Mount Baker in Washington recorded 1,140 inches of snow, which is a record that stands today for seasonal snowfall in the contiguous U.S. Can't you hear the rangers saying, "Alright honey, I have to go to work, now...see you in May!"

True or False: every U.S. state has experienced snowfall.

True. You can snow ski in Hawaii up on the higher volcanoes. While snows are pretty rare in Florida, their record for super-cold temperatures is extremely rare. Back in the winter of 1899, February to be exact, every state dropped below 0-degrees. Tallahassee, FL set a record low of minus 2 degrees, with highs below about killing some tender vegetation...

The coldest temperature recorded in the U.S. is minus 80 degrees in Prospect Creek, Alaska. I the "Lower 48" that record was set in February 1996 at Embarrass, Minnesota where it bottomed out at minus 64 degrees (fyi, all temps are Fahrenheit).

Our Tarheel record cold is frigidly impressive: minus 34 on Mount Mitchell (1/21/1985). That's also where the greatest 24-hour snowfall was recorded, 36 inches on 3/13/1993. I know there have been storms that have dropped 50-60 inches in the mountains, 60" being the unofficial record up at Newfound Gap in the Smokies (Swain County)...but the Mount Mitchell record brings up another nightmare in the weather world: The "Storm of the Century" in March 1993.

Tremendous damage was done up and down the eastern seaboard with heavy snow, ice, and hurricane force winds. Click on the link below to read about the gist of it on Wikipedia:


Stay warm and well!

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