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So Long Sandy; A Look Back at the Superstorm’s Impact on the High Country as Snow and Wind Taper Off

By Paul T. Choate

Sandy is headed north and out of the High Country. Map from Intellicast

Oct. 31, 2012. The effects of Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy are finally just about out of the High Country. Locals awoke this morning to more snow, which had been falling since Sunday evening, but it appears to have finally tapered off this afternoon. 

The storm carved a path of destruction along the East Coast and although the High Country didn’t suffer like those in the northeast, there was still significant damage from the winds, traffic gridlocks from the snow and even one so far unidentified man who tragically lost his life in a traffic accident in Banner Elk yesterday morning. 

The snowfall amounts shattered records for the month of October in places around the High Country over the past few days according to Ray’s Weather Center. The following snowfall amounts are all courtesy of Ray’s Weather:

Watauga County Avery County Ashe County
Boone 5″-6″ Elk Park 14″ Todd (Laurel Mtn) 4″-5″
Zionville 8″-10″ Beech Mtn 12.5″ Clifton 14″
Sugar Grove 8.5″ Sugar Mtn 12 Warrensville 5″
Valle Crucis 6″ Newland 7″ West Jefferson 4″
  “Hwy 321 at the state line” 7″ Glendale Springs 2″
  Flat Springs 7″  
  Plumtree dusting

Historically, according to Ray’s Weather, the most snow Boone had ever received in October prior to this event was three inches on Oct. 22-23, 1937. Banner Elk’s record was six inches on two separate occasions, Oct. 29, 1908 and Oct. 23-24, 1923.

Also worthy of noting is just how cold it really got during this prolonged storm. Boone recorded a low temperature of 28.7 degrees at 2:10 a.m. on Oct. 30. On Beech Mountain, temperatures dipped to 21 degrees on Oct. 30, almost 15 degrees below their 20-year average for this time of year. 

The extremely high winds from the storm, which reportedly gusted to upwards of 80 mph and more at some of the higher elevations, did their fair share of damage. Grandfather Mountain recorded a high wind gust 105.8 mph between midnight and 1 a.m. on Oct. 30. Also, when it was all said and done, Grandfather Mountain measured 12.7 inches of snow at the gate. For Boone, Ray’s Weather reports the highest wind at 32 mph at 10:30 p.m. on Oct 30. The winds also caused headaches for thousands by knocking out power for people all over the High Country. 

According to Renee Whitener, Blue Ridge Electric (BREMCO) director of public relations, 5,837 members, including 2,750 in Watauga County, were affected by the winter storm as of 4 p.m. on Tuesday. The damage included broken power poles and downed power lines in more than 100 locations in Watauga, Ashe, Wilkes and Alleghany counties. 

In a media release at 6:30 a.m. today, BREMCO reported that there were no outages over the course of the night last night. 

Though nowhere near the number affected in Watauga County, Mountain Electric Co-Op was faced with outages in Avery County as well. 

According to Tim Phillips, chief staking engineer with Mountain Electric, 700 members in Avery County faced outages during the storm as of 4:30 p.m. yesterday.

Area schools were also affected by the storm. Both Watauga County Schools and Avery County Schools are closed today, while Appalachian State University operated on a regular schedule. WCS, ACS and ASU were all closed Tuesday due to the snow and wind. WCS and ASU operated on a regular schedule on Monday, with ASU canceling evening classes. ACS were closed Monday.

There is no word on closings for any area schools for tomorrow as of press time, but given the improving conditions students can probably expect to be back in class tomorrow. Check watauga.k12.nc.us and averyschools.net for updates. 

So what’s next in terms of the ever-unpredictable weather in the High Country? Well, currently the temperature is 34 degrees in downtown Boone and the forecast isn’t suggesting it will get much warmer today. The winds will remain gusty, hovering just a little below the 20 mph mark. There is even a 30 percent chance of snow in the overnight hours tonight, though nothing that is expected to produce significant accumulation in most areas. 

Tomorrow will be another chilly day, with the high forecast to only get into the low 40s. As for Friday, only slightly warmer, with highs in the upper 40s. 

This weekend we will finally get some relief. Saturday will be much milder, with highs forecast to reach 58 degrees with no precipitation. Sunday will also be mild with highs reaching 57 degrees, though there will be a slight chance for some passing showers. 

To stay on top of what the weather is doing around the area, visit raysweather.com.