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WINTER WEATHER IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA

Excerpted from a study initiated by the State Climate Office of North Carolina

When people drop in at our office here in Cedar Mountain, outside of Brevard, NC, they often ask….”what is the winter weather like in this area?”  Anecdotal information aside (that we generally have mild winters these days), there is always someone who has lived here most of their life, and reels off stories about what terrible winters they used to experience – especially in the Asheville area.

Here’s a more scientific look at the winter weather in our area.  Caveat:  this study was done in the early 2000’s.

“Winter weather (snow, sleet, freezing rain) occurs with the greatest frequency in the norther latitudes (e.g., New England and the Midwest) and higher altitudes (the Appalachians).  However, such weather regularly affects the southeastern US as far south as Georgia during each cold season.  In fact, the impacts of winter weather in the Southeast have been recorded as early as the first week of October and as late as  mid-April. ”  (This year, particularly mild fall weather and plenty of rain kept the leaves on the trees, many still green, way past the usual color peak here which usually occurs around the middle of October.   And the fall, once it got going, lasted longer.  The mild weather turned cool/cold rather abruptly in the beginning of November, and a big wind & rain storm took down most of our leaves in one day!)

“…Each type of winter precipitation brings with it unique hazards.  Each precipitation type occurs with some regularity throughout the Southeast, and is due mainly to the topography of the region as well as its geography.  Continental polar air masses from Canada typically supply the cold air necessary for snow, while cold, dry air form New England entering the region can become entrained against the east slopes of the Appalachian Mountains, forming a dome or wedge of near-surface cold air.  The moisture necessary for precipitation is brought in from the nearby Gulf Of Mexico, where the thermal contrast between the cold land surface and the relatively warmer gulf waters provides a favorable environment for storm development and intensification.  If a cold dome is already in place east of the mountains, the warm frontal boundary and moisture associated with the developing storm may migrate northward over the cold dome, setting the stage for mixed precipitation….”  (There  is often a temperature differential of anywhere between five and ten degrees Farenheit between Brevard and the Cedar Mountain/Connestee Falls area.  This  is caused by altitude differential.  In easier terms to understand, this means that often we get snow, sleet and frozen rain in Connestee Falls, while Brevard – about 1,000 feet lower in altitude, gets cold rain.)

Natives will tell you that winters are much milder, with less freezing precipitation, than the winters of their childhood.  Still,  there is often concern about how quickly roads are cleared and safe for travel after a snow storm.   The State Department of Transportation is right on top of snow removal on US 276, which runs past Connestee’s Main and East Fork Gates.  And Connestee Falls has its own snow removal equipment, including snowplows and snow blowers – and can stay on top of the snow removal situation on our private roads.

SOURCE:  State Climate Office of North Carolina

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