State News

Sandy-fueled arctic blast blankets western NC in snow

Posted October 30, 2012 10:46 a.m. EDT
Updated October 31, 2012 12:05 a.m. EDT

— Snow continued to fall in some parts of western North Carolina Tuesday after Superstorm Sandy merged with arctic air to spawn the early winter onslaught.

In the Ashe County town of West Jefferson, Audrey Brooks was setting up Christmas decorations and merchandise in her Tis the Season store.

"(I've) never seen it snow like this before in October," she said. "It's the first time in my 56 years that I've seen it snow like this."

Wind gusts up to 70 mph blasted out a window and peeled off metal awning at Sammy Church's building, where he was making repairs on Tuesday.

"It's unusual to have this much wind," Church said. "I have (seen) snow in the later part of October, first of November, but winds like we've had are unusual."

Down the road in Watauga County, portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway were closed. About five inches of snow was on the ground in Boone, where Watauga County Emergency Services Director Jeff Virginia said there were scattered power outages but no widespread problems.

Some residents of nearby Blowing Rock said snow is good for the town because it brings tourists.

"This is great for tourism, period. We wait tables, so it's great for us, pocket-wise," said Sarah Freeman.

Sugar Mountain Ski Resort reported more than seven inches of accumulated snow, prompting it to open to skiers on Wednesday. That's the earliest the resort has opened for ski season in its 43-year history.

On the state's western border with Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park spokeswoman Dana Soehn reported 22 inches of snow at the highest elevations, with strong winds blowing drifts up to 4 feet deep.

Roads are closed throughout the park and a handful of hikers coming off sections of the Appalachian Trial on Tuesday morning reporting tangles of fallen trees and waist-deep drifts.

"We don't know exactly how many people are still up there, but we've not received any distress calls," Soehn said. "It's that heavy, wet snow, so it is difficult to plow."

Icy roads were reported in Madison, Yancey, Mitchell and Avery counties.

Asheville received only a light dusting of snow, but the National Weather Service said up to four to six inches of snow was possible in the higher elevations.

A winter storm warning continues in effect until 6 a.m. Wednesday for Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Haywood, Madison, Mitchell, Swain, Watauga, Yancey and northern Jackson counties. Winds are expected to range from 25 to 35 mph with gusts of up to 60 mph.