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February Ends With 30+ Inches of Snow on Beech, Sugar, Record Cold Temperatures

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The Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain stands covered with snow and ice on Feb. 17, 2015. Kellen Short | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.


By Jesse Wood

Ray Russell of RaysWeather.com is probably smiling right now thinking of those blasted woolly worms, groundhogs, jar o’ beans and the other unscientific winter forecasts out there that compete with his ever-popular, data-backed “Fearless Forecast.”

Remember Kwazimodo?

That was the winning woolly worm at the 37th annual Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk. Well, Kwazimodo should stick to racing and not predicting because his forecast for the month of February was “below average temperatures with little or no snow.”

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Grandfather Mountain staff member Richard Brown uses a tractor to clear the road on Feb. 17, 2015. February brought the first significant snowfall and record low temperatures to the Linville mountain. Kellen Short | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.

The worm was partially correct as the High Country experienced a rather chilly month with some subzero temperatures and dangerous wind chills sprinkled in between. The “little or no snow” forecast, however, was off the mark.

According to RaysWeather.com’s archives, Beech Mountain received 32.1 inches of snow; Sugar Mountain received 36.5 inches of snow; and Boone received 19.5 inches of snow.

Those totals represent half to more than half of all the snow that the High Country has received since the winter season began with several inches of snow at the beginning of November.

So far for the 2014-15 winter, Beech Mountain has received 64.7 inches of snow; Boone received 27.1 inches of snow; and Sugar Mountain received 72.5 inches of snow.

During the month of February, the High Country experienced a number of record-breaking low temperature days, including Feb. 20, when residents of West Jefferson, at -3.5 degrees, felt temperatures not experienced since at least 1896 on that date. Banner Elk and Boone also had low temperatures that same day not felt since the ‘30s.

And the day before, on Feb. 19, many regions experienced temperatures not felt since the ‘50s.

Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation released a weather recap of February. Read the entire release below:

Winter finally arrived at Grandfather Mountain in February,
bringing with it five new daily temperature records, the first substantial
snow of the season and winds close to 100 mph.

A frigid spell in the third week of the month set the following daily
temperature records on the mountain:

Feb. 14: -10.8° (Previously -5° in 1971)
Feb. 15: -11.1° (Previously -6° in 1963)
Feb. 18: -15.4° (Previously -14° in 1958)
Feb. 19: -16.4° (Previously -8° in 1972)
Feb. 20: -10.7° (Previously -4° in 1972)

“Winter certainly took its time getting here, but it came full force once
it arrived,” said Public Relations Specialist Kellen Short. “It was
especially neat to break several daily temperature records that have been
standing since the 1950s and ’60s. Depending on who you ask, that’s either
very exciting or very distressing.”

Grandfather Mountain did not, however, beat the record low for the month
of February, which is -19°, set on Feb. 25, 1967.

Wind speeds also climbed substantially this month, creating wind chills as
low as -50° and below.

The highest speed recorded for the month at the Mile High Swinging Bridge
was 97.6 mph on Feb. 14, and the automated weather equipment also charted
several other days in the 70-80 mph range.

The silver lining to the bitter cold was the arrival of snow — more than
16 inches at the base of the mountain.

Staff at the Entrance Gate recorded 16.6 inches of snow throughout the
month, while staff at the Nature Museum halfway up the mountain recorded
11.3 inches. The snowiest day of the month was Feb. 26, when the Entrance
Gate recorded 5.5 inches of snow and the Nature Museum recorded 3.8 inches
of snow.

While snowfall was plentiful in February, it was largely absent from other
months this winter.

“While we don’t yet know what March will hold, this has the makings of
being one of the least-snowy winters in recorded history on Grandfather
Mountain,” Short said.