Monday, December 19, 2011

History Of Christmases Past ( 1963 to 2011 )


December 7, 2011
On The Tennessee Valley Divide In Wise
Christmas Decorations At Snowy Camp Bethel
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.


Dreams of a WHITE Christmas begin around this time every year as it becomes the major topic of conversation, with even snow scrooges having to ponder what the holiday might bring!

Whether you love or hate snow it will forever be associated with at least this one day of the year.

December 7, 2011
Dreams Of The Christmas Season
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The following history will document conditions observed in Clintwood and Wise during early years, with City of Norton and High Knob Massif observations starting in the 1983-1993 period.


History Of Christmas Holidays
During 1963-2011
( 49 Years )

Winter's Harsh Beauty In The High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

1963...Christmas morn dawned to a 9" snow depth in Clintwood, down from 12" on December 24.  By 
5 PM on Christmas day snow had settled to a mean depth of 6" at Wise 1 SE located on the campus of University of Virginia's College in Wise 
( formerly Clinch Valley College ).

1964...Stormy Holiday.  A total of 1.11" of rain fell in Clintwood during the December 24-26 period, to include a rare thunderstorm on the morning after Christmas ( MAX of 66 degrees in Wise on December 24 ).

1965...Bare in the lowlands on Christmas morning with a trace of snow on the ground December 26.

1966...A Christmas morning snow depth of 8" was measured in the town of Clintwood ( southern exposed location at 1780 feet above sea level ).

1967...A trace of Christmas morning snow depth 
in Clintwood was followed by a major winter storm during December 27-30 ( e.g., 9.2" of snow were measured in Wise just during the 24-hours ending at 5 PM December 28 ).

1968...A 1" snow depth on December 24 melted to only a trace on southern exposures in the town of Clintwood by Christmas morning.

1969...A trace of Christmas morning snow depth 
in Clintwood gave way to major winter storm conditions, with 8" of mean depth by the next day in both Clintwood & Wise.

1970...A bare ground on Christmas morning gave way to 1.2" of snowfall by the AM of December 26.

1971...No snow on the ground in Clintwood during Christmas with only 4.7" being measured in Wise during the combined November-December period.

1972...A rainfall total of 0.29" in Clintwood into Christmas morning, with rain changing to snow on December 26.

1973...Several inches of snow depth prior to the holiday melted to a trace upon southern exposed locations in the town of Clintwood by Christmas Eve.  A total of 2.18" of rain measured at Wise 1 SE in the 24-hours ending at 5 PM on December 26.

1974...Rainy again with a total of 0.45" measured in Clintwood into Christmas morning.

1975...Just a trace of Christmas morning snow depth in Clintwood.

1976...A snow depth of 1" at Clintwood 1 W on Christmas morning ( 1 mile west of town at an elevation of 1560 feet above sea level in the Russell Fork Basin ).

[ The year of 1976 marked the beginning of my snowfall 
measurements ( as I got old enough to do the JOB! ) ].

1977...A rainfall total of 0.49" into Christmas morn in Clintwood, with evening snow developing ( 1" on the ground at Clintwood 1 W by the AM of December 26 ).

1978...Only a trace of snow depth at Clintwood 1 W on Christmas morning.

1979...Snow, sleet, and freezing rain all fell into mountain valleys during Christmas, with heavy snow across higher elevations.  A 3" snow depth was reported at the Wise 1 SE NWS Cooperative Station at its 5 PM observation time on Christmas day ( followed a 61 degree Christmas EVE day MAX in Wise ).

1980...Christmas Holiday snowfall totals of 1.1" at Clintwood 1 W and 1.6" at Wise 1 SE were observed during December 25-26.

1981...Christmas morning found 1.0" of snowfall at Clintwood 1 W, with 1.3" reported at Wise 1 SE. 

1982...Warmest Christmas on record!
The maximum temperature reached 69 degrees in Wise to establish the highest Christmas temp ever observed since record keeping began in 1955.  This reading was taken at an elevation of 2560 feet, with lower elevations being warmer ( e.g., 75 degrees in town of Pennington Gap ) and higher elevations cooler.

1983...Coldest Christmas on record!
The minimum temperature fell to -13 degrees below zero in Wise to establish the lowest temp ever observed since record keeping began in 1955. Unofficial MINS as bitter as -25 degrees below zero were reported in the area ( i.e., lowest for Christmas ).

1984...A rainfall total of 0.70" was measured into Christmas morning in the City of Norton 
( at Norton Water Plant ), with 0.49" in Clintwood.  
Only a few snow flurries were observed. 

1985...Heavy snow developed Christmas Eve with 3" to 4" on the ground Christmas day at Clintwood 1 W.  Plunging temperatures produced a bitter 
6 degree above zero reading by 8 PM.  Snow depths were deeper, temps and wind chills much lower, across mid-upper elevations above 2500 feet. 

1986...A rainfall total of 1.42" was measured at Norton WP during the Christmas Holiday, with 1.18" in Clintwood ( mostly fell during December 24, with foggy conditions during Christmas day ). 

1987...Wettest Christmas Holiday on record!
A total of 4.55" of rain fell at Norton WP during the December 24-27 period, with locally greater tallies across the High Knob Massif ( a rainfall total of 2.40" in Wise established the 24-hour record for Christmas, ending at 5 PM on Christmas day ).

1988...Powerful afternoon thunderstorms prompted a rare, late season tornado watch for the area during December 24 ( Franklin, Tn., was devastated by a twister ).  Rainfall totals reached 1.40" at Norton WP and 0.71" at Clintwood 1 W during Christmas Eve.  Dry and much cooler conditions dominated Christmas day.

1989...Arctic cold & snow.
Temps as cold as -20+ below zero occurred amid upper elevation basins from the High Knob Massif to Burkes Garden during December 23-25 
( all temps in degrees Fahrenheit ).

A mean 4" snow depth was observed at Wise 1 SE on Christmas day, with deeper depths amid the High Knob Massif.

1990...NWS Cooperative Stations in Clintwood and Wise were the only official sites in Virginia to report at least 1" of snow depth during Christmas 
( included northern slopes in the City of Norton, with deeper depths along the High Knob Massif ).

1991...Snow flurries fell on Christmas Eve with none on the ground amid the lower elevations at Clintwood 1 W on Christmas.

1992...Heavy snow developed during afternoon on Christmas day with up to 6"+ accumulating across mid-upper elevations of the High Knob Landform and Tennessee Valley Divide.  A total of 2.6" were observed in Clintwood. 

1993...Snow developed during Christmas day with intense afternoon snow squalls.  A snow depth of 6" was measured at Clintwood 1 W by early hours of December 26.  Air temps plunged to -3 below zero atop Eagle Knob of the High Knob Massif, 
amid snow depths of up to 12"+ . 

1994...A Christmas morning snow depth of 1" atop the High Knob Massif, with no snow in the valleys 
( MIN of 23 degrees in Clintwood on Christmas, with 18 degrees on morning of December 26 ).

1995...A 1" snow depth on Christmas morning increased during the day, with 4.2" of new snow falling at Clintwood 1 W.  Snow depths of 6" to 8" were reported across the High Knob Massif 
( MIN of 9 degrees in Wise on AM of December 24 ). 

1996...A cold wave prior to the Christmas holiday, with minimum temps of 3 degrees in Norton and 
5 degrees in Wise on morning of December 21.  A warming trend brought rain, not snow, with totals varying from 0.58" in Clintwood up to 1.01" in the City of Norton into December 24.  Only a few Christmas morning snow flurries.

1997...Mostly cloudy and mild with 0.15" of rain 
at Clintwood 1 W and 0.26" at Norton WP for the 24-hours ending Christmas morning. Major back to back winter storms followed the holiday with snow depths of 12" in Norton and 18" to 36" across the High Knob highcountry by December 31.

1998...An ice storm during December 23-24, with 1" of packed ice and sleet remaining on the ground at Clintwood 1 W on Christmas morning ( MIN of 10 degrees ).  Heavy snow followed the holiday for the second consecutive year, with snow depths of 4" 
in Clintwood and 6" to 10"+ across the sprawling High Knob Massif by December 31.

1999...Snow fell during December 24-25 with Christmas morning depths of 3" at Clintwood 1 W and 7" atop the High Knob Massif. MINS reached 
3 degrees in Norton and 5 degrees in Wise.

2000...Bitter temps before the holiday produced 
-2 degree below zero temps in the City of Norton on the morning of December 23.  

A trace of snow depth on Christmas morning at Clintwood 1 W, with 2" at Norton WP ( 4" to 6" in upper elevations of the High Knob Massif ).

2001...Bare ground across the entire Appalachian range, southward of the Pennsylvania border, on Christmas morning.  

2002...A Christmas morning snow depth of 1" at Norton WP, with a trace at Clintwood 1 W.  Snow accumulated during the day with 4" of depth in the City of Norton by late Christmas evening ( deeper depths across the High Knob Massif ).

2003...A Christmas morning snow depth of 5" 
at Norton WP, down from 14" on the morning of December 21 ( a trace at Clintwood 1 W increased 
to 1" by 9 AM with new snow ).  Christmas snow depths were much deeper across northern slopes of the High Knob Massif where accumulations 
had reached 20" or more on December 21.

2004...Bitter cold gripped the area before the holiday with MINS of -4 degrees below zero in both Wise and at Clintwood 1 W on December 20.  A -10 below zero minimum was recorded on Eagle Knob of the High Knob Massif, amid 15-30+ mph wind gusts.  Strong warming followed the cold wave with bare ground across much of the area by Christmas Eve as bitter air returned.  Deep snow continued to blanket northern slopes of High Knob Lake Basin, where up to 9" of depth lasted into December 30 
( suggesting a foot or more of Christmas morning depth ).

2005...Christmas Eve day found a solid blanket of snow across the upper elevations in the High Knob Massif with a generally bare landscape below 3000 feet.  Sleet & freezing rain created bad driving into the evening, with numerous traffic accidents and abandoned vehicles along Alt. 58 between Norton and Castlewood.

Christmas day featured an array of conditions with rain showers, fog, rare lightning & thunder, peeps of sun, and a evening transition to snow across upper elevations ( 1" to 5" of new snow accumulated into December 26 ).

2006...Bare ground was once again found across the entire Appalachian range to the south of the Pennsylvania border during the December 24-25 period.  Christmas day got off to a chilly, wet start as predawn rain overspread the mountains on gusty SE-SSE flow.  Downsloping combined with a distinct dry slot to generate partly to mostly sunny skies for a while with temps soaring into the 55-60 degree range below 3000 feet.  Much cooler air was felt across the High Knob Massif where an array of low clouds and mountain leewaves formed on the strong SE flow.

For the second year in a row snowflakes flew the day after Christmas, with 0.5" to 3"+ across the area during December 26.

2007...Bare ground was yet again found, for the second consecutive Christmas holiday, across the entire Appalachian range south of Pennsylvania during December 24-25 ( the third Christmas holiday this decade to be completely snow barren south of the PA border, even on the highest summits! ).

Despite 1" or more of snow depth through morning hours of December 20 in the High Knob Massif, warming temperatures and a couple rain events washed all snow away from even the very coldest, northern basins. It had been an anemic start to winter across the great southern Appalachians, with only 4" to 7" of snow across the sprawling 
High Knob Massif in weeks prior to Christmas 
( during December ), and just 2.5" in low elevations at Clintwood 1 W.  A fitting conclusion to the all-time driest year on record in the local mountains 
( e.g., only 45.00" to 50.00" in Big Cherry Basin of High Knob ).

2008...A break in the mild, wet December 2008 pattern raised hopes that a White Christmas would finally return to decorate the mountains as bitter cold, arctic air poured south into the Appalachians on December 21. Wind chills dipped to -12 below zero in Wise by early on December 22, with air temps from -6 below zero on Eagle Knob of the High Knob Massif to 7 above in Clintwood.

However, bitter cold left as fast as it arrived with strong SSE-SSW winds ROARing across mountain ridges by late on December 23. Rain, NOT snow, arrived for Christmas Eve gatherings with up to 0.60" measured at Big Cherry Dam of High Knob on wind driven upslope flow ( 0.21" in Clintwood ).

For the third consecutive year, and 4th time this decade, Christmas day dawned with no snow on the ground south of Pennsylvania. That included even most favored, and typically snow laden north slope locations like lofty High Knob Lake Basin, Mount Rogers, Mount LeConte, Tn., and the ski resort of Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. 
Amazing!

2009...Be careful what you WISH FOR!
A major pre-holiday snowstorm crippled & buried the mountain area during December 18-19, 2009 to generate a MEGA-Disaster event ( electricity was lost in 96% of Dickenson County alone ).

24" of Snow Depth - December 19, 2009
Buried In Robinson Knob of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Otis Ward - © All Rights Reserved.


The morning of December 19 found 2 to 3 feet of snow depth, with 4-5+ feet in drifts, across upper elevations of the High Knob Massif, with 1 to 1.5 feet of snow depth being more common across lower-middle elevations below 3000 feet.

The high density, WET fall devastated much of central-northern Scott, Wise, Dickenson, and Buchanan counties, below 3000 feet, with miles of downed power lines, many hundreds of broken poles, and the worse, most massive tree damage ever observed in a snowstorm ( topping January 1998 destruction ).

Post-Storm Destruction - December 2009
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Despite warming and rain into Christmas day, a general 6-10" of Christmas Eve snow depth at Clintwood 1 W diminished to 6" by Christmas morning ( 2-6" into early hours of December 26 ). 

Water gushed out of the snow laden High Knob highcountry during Christmas, with strong rises on whitewater creeks and headwater rivers like South Fork of the Powell and North Fork of the Clinch into the new year.

Early January 2010
South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif
Whitewater From BIG Snow Melt & Rain
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

2010...Major Christmas Holiday Snowstorm!
The second White Christmas in a row greeted the mountain landscape as light to moderate snow, with embedded heavier bursts, dominated the overnight to sunrise period of Christmas Morn to generate an idyllic 2" to 3" coating of pristine white over old snow. 

This as a major winter storm took shape across the already snowy mountains.


Cloudy, cold conditions ruled Christmas Eve day with maxs in the 20s to around 30 degrees from Norton-Wise north to Clintwood as clouds lowered and thickened ahead of the developing storm. 

Doppler indicated virga began reaching the summit level of the High Knob Massif in evening hours of Christmas Eve as the atmosphere saturated from the top downward.

Christmas morning snow depths varied from around 5" ( 3" to 7" ) in Clintwood and the City of Norton to as much as 15" at higher elevations in the High Knob Massif ( deeper in drifts ).

What began as a moderately wet snow turned fluffy in nature by PM hours of December 26 as gusty winds increased upsloping amid increasingly bitter air. PM temps in the 10s from Norton-Wise into the High Knob highcountry fell into single digits on Eagle Knob by 7 PM on December 26 as snowfall turned heavy to mark the most intense period of this prolonged December 25-27 event 
( 9.0" of new snow fell in High Chaparral of the High Knob Massif from the PM of Dec 26 into the AM of Dec 27 ).

December 27, 2010
Massive Snow Drift Line In High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Massive drifting in the High Knob Massif occurred amid a general knee to waist deep snowpack!

Elevation 4189 feet
General Knee to Waist Deep Snow
Eagle Knob Communications Area - December 27, 2010
Photograph by Steve Blankenbecler - © All Rights Reserved.

Snowfall Totals For The 
Christmas Holiday Storm of 2010

Clintwood 1 W: 12.2"
City of Norton WP: 12.6"
Nora 4 SSE on Long Ridge: 15.0"
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif: 18.5"
*Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif: 23.0"

( * ) - Approximate storm snowfall total ( local amounts may have been greater or less within the main crest zone ). A general 4" to 5" of total settlement was observed during this event given the low density of the fluffy snowfall from Dec 25 ( PM ) to Dec 27 ( AM ). 

Mean snow depths reached around 10" in both Clintwood and the City of Norton, varying from 7" to 13", with 14" or more of mean depth on Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge and within upper elevations of the High Knob Massif ( where snow depths were generally knee to waist deep, as illustrated, or greater in the Crest Zone ).


Most significantly, this Christmas Holiday Storm helped make December 2010 the snowiest on record ( in at least 50 years ).

Snowiest December On Record 
December 2010 Snowfall Totals

Clintwood 1 W: 36.2"
Nora 4 SSE on Long Ridge: 46.3"
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif: 55.0"
*Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif: 67.0"

*Approximate tally ( with greater & lesser amounts likely in the main crest zone of the massif between Bowman Mountain and Thunderstruck Knob of Powell Mountain ).


2011...A BARE Christmas.
Following two wintry Christmases the only signs of winter in the High Knob Massif on Christmas Day 2011 were icicles hanging off cliffs.

A recap from my climate archives.

Photographer Roddy Addington found only icicles hanging off cliffs in the High Knob Massif during a Christmas morning drive into the highcountry on December 25 in 2011. 

A stark contrast from the previous year when deep snow was poised to get much deeper.  Still, despite the lack of snow, views were beautiful upon looking across the rugged mountains from atop the wind swept  expanse of High Knob Meadow 
( at 4223 feet above sea level ).

View From High Knob Meadow - Christmas Day 2011
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Holiday Snow ( After Christmas Day )
Christmas was barely over when one of the most energetic systems of the entire month developed
into December 26, with SE-S wind gusts of 40 to 60+ mph.  Winds remained strong as cold air arrived on SW flow trajectories into afternoon hours of December 27, with gusts around 40 mph being observed in Wise.  
A transition from light rain to snow occurred amid the High Knob Massif as temps tumbled below freezing.

Upslope snowfall increased through late evening hours into the overnight of December 28, with conditions becoming blizzard-like at times on Eagle Knob in wind driven, swirling snow.  By morning 2" to 3"+ depths had accumulated across the main crest zone of the massif, with 1-2" common at middle elevations.


End Of 49-Year Christmas History.


A few data sources for this 49-year 
period included but was not limited to
the following individuals and locations:

The High Knob Massif Area

( Elevation 4178 feet )
Blue Ridge Public Television 
Terry Surface 
Carl Henderson
Dennis Salyer
Marty Genusa

( Elevation 4178 feet )
Eagle Knob Weather Station
Wayne Browning
Walter Lee Browning
Larry Browning
William Browning
John Mullins
Jonathan Owens

( Elevation 4189 feet )
Virginia-Kentucky Communications
Steve Blankenbecler

( Elevation 3300 feet )
High Chaparral Community
Joe & Darlene Fields and Family
Wade Fields

( Elevation 3240 feet )
Robinson Knob Community
Otis & Nancy Ward

( Elevation 3420 feet )
Little Mountain Community
James & Carol Bolling 
David & Ann ( Marie ) Sturgill
Cal Adams

( Elevation 3600 feet )
High Knob Lake Host Cabin
Temperature Observations

( Elevation 3120 feet )
Big Cherry Dam 
Gary Hampton & Staff of Big Stone Gap WP

( Elevation 1940 feet )
South Fork Gorge
Gary Hampton & Staff of Big Stone Gap WP

( Elevation 2750 feet )
Flat Gap Community
Johnny Combs

( Elevation 1945 feet )
Head of Powell Valley
Elizabeth & Addison Stallard
Sharon Daniels 

( Elevation 1600 feet )
Cracker Neck of Powell Valley 
Tracy & Jennifer Garrison 

( Elevation 1900 feet )
Skeens Ridge of Powell Valley
Ida & David Holyfield

( Elevation 2360 feet )
Appalachia Lake 
Jack Pitts & Staff of Appalachia Lake Water Plant 

( Elevation 2141 to 3308 feet )
City of Norton & Dual Norton Reservoirs 
Tommy Roberts
Steve Adams
Gary Hampton
Joe Carter
Andrew Greear
Raymond Ricketts
Ed Dauphine
Wes Ward

Lakes of the High Knob Massif Area
Larry Robbins 

( Elevation 2500 feet )
Flatwoods Community
Janet Couch

Clinch Ranger District of Jefferson National Forest 
United States Forest Service Staff ( Wise Office )

Virginia Department of Transportation ( VDOT ) 
Wise Office
Coeburn Office
East Stone Gap Office


High Knob Landform 
( Landscape & Environment )

Roddy Addington
Bill Harris
Harold Jerrell
Wayne & Genevie Riner
Steve Blankenbecler
Richard Kretz 
Darlene & Joe Fields
Otis & Nancy Ward
Gary Hampton
Andrew Greear
Denver Garrett
Addison & Elizabeth Stallard
Sharon Daniels
Frank Gentry
Jimmy Stidham
Jonathan Owens
Alan Cressler 
Jimmy Fawbush
Ron Flanary 
Johnny Stanley
Donnie Rose
Rodney Parsons 
Karen Peters
Tim Mullins
Steve Ruth
John King
Johnny & Jo Combs
Beckie & Tommy Roberts
Frank Kilgore
Dan Weemhoff 
Dr. Phil Shelton
Dr. Richard Peake
Dr. Paul Marek
Dr. Benjamin Schwartz 
Dwight Peake
Anna Hess & Mark Hamilton
Members of The Clinch Coalition
Members of The U.S. Forest Service In Wise
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service ( Shane Hanlon )
Virginia Natural Heritage Program Staff
Virginia Karst Program ( Wil Orndorff )
Thomas Wieboldt of Massey Herbarium
Plus many ( MANY ) others.............

City of Norton
Norton Water Plant Staff
AWS Weatherbug at Norton Elementary School
Jimmy Fawbush 

Town of Wise 
Roy L. Wells, Jr. & ETS Staff  
Wise 1 SE & Wise 3 E NWS Cooperative Stations 
Wise RAWS - United States Forest Service 
LNP AWOS - Lonesome Pine Airport
Roddy Addington
Steve Blankenbecler

Town of Appalachia
Jack Pitts
Mark Quillin
John King

Town of Coeburn
Coeburn Filtration Plant Staff
Tracy Garrison

Town of Big Stone Gap 
Big Stone Gap Water Plant Staff
Big Stone Gap Wastewater Treatment Plant Staff
Frank Gentry

Town of Pennington Gap
Pennington Gap Water Plant Staff

Town of Jonesville
Denver Garrett

Community of Silver Leaf
Harold Jerrell

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
Carol Borneman & Staff


The Russell Fork Basin
( Northern Wise & Dickenson counties )

Town of Pound
Geneva Varner & Staff of North Fork of Pound Dam

Town of Clintwood
Paul D. Buchanan
Wayne Browning & Family
Steve Mullins & Staff of Clintwood WWTP

Community of Birchleaf
Jonathan Owens

Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge 
Wayne & Genevie Riner

John W. Flannagan Dam
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Staff

Breaks Interstate Park
Carl Mullins & Staff

Breaks Village
James Childress


And finally, a very special thanks to the 
main photographers for this website:

Roddy Addington
Bill Harris 
Harold Jerrell
Richard Kretz
Wayne Riner
Genevie Riner 
Darlene Fields
Alan Cressler
Steve Blankenbecler 

This is only a partial listing of the many who make what I do possible.  To all those named and the many others un-named, which I've met and talked with over the years, I am so very thankful and appreciative to each and every one!

While many are named more than once, I could never thank
any of them enough for their contributions over the years.


Merry Christmas In 2011.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wintry Period In The High Knob Massif


December 11, 2011
Cow Parsnip ( Heracleum maximum )
Winter Wonders In The High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The Massey Herbarium

Thomas Wieboldt, of Virginia Tech's Massey Herbarium, says the Cow Parsnip Family "has a unique type of fruit called a schizocarp which is comprised of two parts. In this case the two parts are sandwiched together like holding your hands palm to palm.  When mature, the two halves split apart, each with its own single seed inside, hence the name ‘schizo’ = ‘split’
and ‘carp’ = carpel (fruit)."

Surrounded by snow, a clump of seed pods dangle in bitter air as a potential source of food and energy yet to be utilized during harsh days ahead.

The High Knob Landform

December 11, 2011
Remnant Massif of High Knob Landform
Signs Of The Season - Snow & Broadhead! 
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Roddy did not even notice the added piece of this interesting scene when he took the photograph, focusing at first upon the snow and ferns hanging on the side of this tree ( numerous trees grow ferns here ).

A Razorback Broadhead From A Bow Hunter
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A razorback broadhead from a bow hunter's arrow was lodged in the tree, without the shaft.

December 11, 2011
High Knob Mountain Highway
Packed Snow & Ice On State Route 619 
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Photographer Bill Harris stands on a slick State Route 619 as he composes a shot during a weekend trip with Roddy to capture some winter scenes in the High Knob highcountry.

Roddy said the roadway was covered by snow and ice from just above Norton all the way into Scott County, past the Camp Rock of Big Flat Top, with Bill having to shift into 4-Wheel Drive near the 3300 foot level of the Upper Norton Reservoir.

December 11, 2011
Snow Covered Head of High Knob Lake Basin
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Some 18 days with 1" or more of snow depth have been observed in the High Knob Lake Basin since October 1, despite a pattern most consider as mild.

The December 7-11 period was quite cold and wintry in the High Knob Massif area following the heavy snowfall, with persistent snow cover making conditions colder than places with bare ground.

Climate Statistics For
December 7-11, 2011

( Northern Base of High Knob Massif )
City of Norton - Elevation 2141 feet
Average Daily MAX: 39.0 degrees
Average Daily MIN: 17.2 degrees
MEAN: 28.1 degrees

In the High Knob high country temp means during this 5 day period varied from low-mid 30s by day to low-mid 10s by night.  MINS fell into single digits amid lofty, snow covered basins of the massif into morning hours of December 11.

NASA Visible Satellite Image At 11:01 AM - December 10, 2011
Image Courtey Of The Earth Science Office

Low clouds lingered into early afternoon hours of December 10 in the wake of a arctic-like cold front, which produced flurries but no new accumulations.

While the front did not possess any true arctic temps it brought extremely dry post-frontal air from interior regions of Canada.

High Knob Massif
December 10, 2011 at 1:12 PM
Rime Formation At Eagle Knob Communications Site
Image by Steve Blankenbecler - © All Rights Reserved.

The front had a couple of notable weather impacts upon the High Knob Massif, with upslope lowering of cloud bases allowing rime to form at the summit level into morning hours of December 10 prior to a big dewpoint PLUNGE that generated the coldest night of the young 2011-12 season ( as noted above ).

December 11
High Knob Massif Rock Outcrop
Awesome Icicles & Colors
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Bitter temperatures that formed over the snow cover and low dewpoint air froze everything with any thoughts of liquidity to create striking scenes in the massif.

High Knob Massif - December 11, 2011
Striking Colors And A Swan's Head In ICE
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Taking the shape of a swan or goose head, this ice formation is just awesome amid varied colorations from lichens, rocks, and other objects in sunlight.

Amazingly, the EYE 
is in just the right position!

High Knob Massif - December 11, 2011
BACON Ice Along Stem At Rock Outcrop
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Upon discovery of another incredible ice formation along a rock outcropping, Roddy said it looked like a huge "slab of bacon" ( him and Bill were probably getting HUNGRY by then!!! ).

High Knob Massif
Sugar Maple ( Acer saccharum var. saccharum )
Loaded Down With Snow - PM of December 7, 2011
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Heavy snowfall of December 7 setting the stage for nearly all of this above, illustrating how important snow cover is to development of true winter conditions ( both locally and on synoptic scales )!


( Updated: December 15, 2011 )
Mountain Waves Generated
By Strong SW Winds

Horizontal temperature differences generate pressure gradients that drive winds on the large or synoptic-scale during this time of year, with forcing events in the High Knob Landform often becoming visible amid the heavens above!

NASA Visible Image At 9:31 AM - December 15, 2011
All Images Courtesy Of The Earth Science Office

Note the opaque looking wave clouds in the above image from Harlan County, Ky., into Wise County, Va., with a mountain wave cloud raised upward in appearance from NW to SE of Norton ( the City denoted by eye-like symbol ) lee of the High Knob Massif.

ROARing SW winds developed across higher elevations during the overnight hours of December 15, with downward mixing into lower terrain after sunrise ( causing rapid valley temperature rises ).

NASA Visible Image At 9:45 AM - December 15, 2011

An array of smaller wave clouds can be seen along the length of the High Knob Landform and across the Black Mountains, as well as over the Great Smokies and Mount Mitchell. 

Mountain waves became distinct by 9:45 AM, with the large cloud NW to SE of Norton being a standing lee wave formed just downstream of the High Knob Massif ( in a climatological position ).

December 15, 2011
NAM Model 850 MB Chart At 7 AM

A strong SW air flow along the black isobars at 850 MB was turning a bit inward, toward lower pressure, to generate general 200 to 230 degree flow trajectories during this time.

Sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph became common in Wise, with peak gusts to around 40 mph, on a 210 to 230 degree inflow that streamed across the High Knob Massif and into the Wise Plateau.

( A Different Perspective )
NASA Visible Image At 9:45 AM - December 15, 2011

The long-lived nature of these orographic clouds can be noted by jumping ahead in time to 11:31 AM.

NASA Visible Image At 11:31 AM - December 15, 2011

Observe an additional wave cloud has formed over southwestern Dickenson County adjacent to the large, persistent standing lee wave from NW to SE of Norton.  Gusts locally topped 40 mph.

By early afternoon wave clouds started showing up east of the High Knob Massif, as trajectories began to shift direction.

NASA Visible Image At 12:31 AM - December 15, 2011

Observe the change at 850 MB on the chart below, with flow trajectories now streaming from the High Knob Massif toward the Upper Clinch River Basin in Russell & Tazewell counties.

December 15, 2011
NAM Model 850 MB Chart At 1:00 PM

The unseen but felt portion of this wind event was orographic cooling forced by upsloping along windward slopes & crests of the High Knob Massif, with PM MAXS reaching upper 40s to middle 50s.

A 55 degree PM maximum was observed in the City of Norton where air rises from Powell Valley and along mountain slopes of the massif to cool the City on SW flow ( * ).

*It is interesting to note that during nights with moderate SW winds the City of Norton can remain much warmer than Coeburn, where blocking by the massif keeps the Tacoma-Coeburn Valley in drainage flows decoupled from main SW boundary layer winds.

The Coeburn Valley coupling back up only when SW flow gets strong enough to overcome terrain blocking effects ( generating downslope temperature surges at such times ).


Orographic Temperature Effect
On SW Air Flow Trajectories

NASA Visible Image At 11:45 AM - December 14, 2011

Even on a day with abundant sunshine behind a warm front, as was observed during December 14, the orographic effect with S-SW air trajectories is active when pressure gradients drive winds across the High Knob Landform to produce orographic forcing ( e.g., upsloping & downsloping using simple terms ).

PM Maxs on December 14 varied from low to middle 50s in upper elevations of the High Knob Massif to 59 degrees in the City of Norton ( with upsloping SW winds adding cooling on weak-moderate flow ).

Downsloping into the Russell Fork Basin of Dickenson County, north to northeast of the High Knob Massif, pushed temperatures to 66 degrees in Clintwood & 68 degrees at John Flannagan Dam.

The above being partly attributed to elevation but also enhanced by upsloping & downsloping, with the magnitude of all effects tending to increase as wind speeds increase.


*Reading Note:  Text on The High Knob Landform is best viewed using the Google Chrome web browser ( text may appear mis-aligned in other browsers ).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Major Storm Opens December 2011


Town of Wise
December 7, 2011
Decorated For The Holiday Season
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.


A fast & furious fall of heavy snow capped off yet another major storm to close the first week of December 2011 and begin meteorological winter.

Elevation 2454 feet
Afternoon of December 7, 2011
Winter Majesty In The Town of Wise
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

It was a scene of pure beauty in Wise where Holiday decor was perfected by Mother Nature's furious afternoon burst of heavy snow.

December 7, 2011
Winter Wonderland On Wise Plateau
Snow Sticking To Power Lines In Wise Despite Wind
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A general 2" to 4" of snow accumulation was reported across the Norton-Wise area during the afternoon.

It should be pointed out that this fast hitting event produced some interesting effects, as despite wind that blasted snow onto poles it still managed to stick to overhead wires amid the quick switch from drenching rain to heavy, wet snow.

December 7, 2011
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif
Heavy Snow, Wind, And Low Clouds
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

A few air miles south of Wise conditions got BAD amid the High Knob highcountry, with strong N-NW winds and near whiteout conditions above 2700 feet, as well documented by Darlene Fields.

Elevation 3300 feet
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif
WIND Blasted Trees & Snow Covered Roads
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Snow was blasted onto trees from bottom to top as roads gradually disappeared beneath the furious fall to create surreal looking scenes amid icy clouds of wind driven flakes.

Afternoon of December 7, 2011
Remnant Massif of the High Knob Landform
Beautiful Mid-Afternoon Darkness In The Highcountry
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Observe how snow was drifted up around tree trunks in the above scene, amid an eerie looking afternoon darkness of the deep woods.

December 7, 2011
Lower End Snow Depths In High Chaparral
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

As heavy snow began to wane it left snow depths that varied from 2" to 3" on the lower end of the measuring stick to as much as 6" on the higher end, with larger drifts.

December 7, 2011
High Chaparral of the High Knob Massif
Half A Foot of Snow Depth On The Ground
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

On the main summit, above 4000 feet, it was a different story as the sustained winds were so strong that they literally swept highly exposed places nearly bare!

December 7, 2011
Wind Swept Gap Between High Knob & Eagle Knob
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

That is actually a great stop motion shot by Roddy as upon close inspection one can see large snowflakes that are moving sideways and even UP in direction.  Look in particular along right side of picture as those cotton-like blobs are snowflakes moving UPslope across the lofty summit!

The above is why it is sometimes nearly useless to measure precipitation along these highly exposed convex crestlines that face winds, as precipitation elements ( including rain ) not only move horizontally but also vertically in direction when upslope forcing is strong.

Elevation 4100 feet
Bitter Cold Fury & Low Visibility 
Wind Blasted Along The Crest Zone
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Looking from High Knob along the lee side of Forest Service 238 much deeper snow can be seen in the above photo by Roddy taken along the southeast slope of Eagle Knob.

So where does all that snow go?  If one looks around it typically can be found along lee sides of ridges, in drifts, and even in this setting over into the lofty High Knob Lake Basin!

December 7, 2011
Near Summit of High Knob Peak
Wind Sculpturing Around Large Rock On Ground
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

On small scales one can also see the same type of effects around objects on the ground, like this rock Roddy photographed above with much more snow on one side than the other.

[ Not a truly ideal example above since both sides of this rock were exposed to 30-40+ knot winds, as Roddy well verified and felt in middle 20s air temps that blasted him & the ground. Ouch! ].

Elevation 3300 feet
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif
Snowboard Adjacent To 5-6" Ground Depths
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

A very good way to measure snow and to determine how much new snow falls once the ground becomes covered is to use snowboards, placed on or above ground in various locations.

The above method being detailed nicely by 
The Snow Booklet of Colorado State University.

Picnic tables, or other types of above ground objects which are not going to be moved during an event, can also make good measuring boards.

December 7, 2011
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif
Outdoor Picnic Table Used As Snowboard
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

A key feature of this method being to measure and sweep the boards clean once every 6 hours, ideally, that snow is falling ( with four but not more than four measurements during a 24-hour period ).

December 7, 2011
HUGE Flakes In High Chaparral of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Another notable feature of this event was huge snowflake sizes, especially during intervals where strong winds decreased just a little.


Winter Storm Along 
The Tennessee Valley Divide

December 7, 2011
Heavy Snowfall On Long Ridge At 4:23 PM
Photograph by Genevie Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

My friend Genevie Riner documented the fury of this snowstorm as it engulfed the high ridges along the Tennessee Valley Divide.

December 7, 2011
Heavier Snowfall On Long Ridge At 4:40 PM
Photograph by Genevie Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Given soaking rains which fell through morning hours it was rather shocking to see how fast snow was able to stick to everything!

Afternoon of December 7, 2011
Rapid Transformation Into Winter - Snowfall & Wind
Photograph by Genevie Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Accumulations became significant, with an official storm total of 4.6" being measured by Genevie & Wayne Riner at Nora 4 SSE ( elevation 2650 feet ).

December 7, 2011
Snow Piling Up Amid Fury Of Storm At 4:54 PM
Photograph by Genevie Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Clearing skies into December 8 created simply gorgeous scenes on the high ridges.

December 8, 2011
Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge of the Tennessee Valley Divide
Heaviest Snow Of Early Winter Along The High Ridges
Photograph by Genevie Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Observe how thick snow has stuck to trees amid folds of the terrain, beneath ridges, while those trees exposed are mostly bare to create striking contrasts in the morning light!

Morning of December 8, 2011
Looking Along The Tennessee Valley Divide
Photograph by Genevie Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Genevie captured an interesting scene in this next photograph as a rather distinct morning inversion layer had developed, denoted by the sharp cloud line below, with warming temps amid a zone from around 3500 to 6500 feet that trapped moist air near the surface.

Morning of December 8, 2011
Long Ridge of Tennessee Valley Divide
Top Of Inversion Layer - View Toward Pine Mountain
Photograph by Genevie Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Although morning minimums dipped into bitter mid-upper 10s across much of the snow area lying above 2200 feet in elevation, the presence of upslope cloudiness throughout the night beneath this inversion layer kept temps from getting even colder over the fresh snow cover ( the inversion mixing out over higher terrain after sunrise but still visible in the far distance, mostly beyond Pine Mountain, toward the Kentucky foothills ).

December 8, 2011
Feeding Time In The Highlands - After A Bitter Night
Photograph by Genevie Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Mountain ridges & plateaus form many nice communities across Dickenson and Wise counties, with elevated farms that plunge off into deep, twisting hollows.

Snow cover always acts to accentuate the terrain, with every wrinkle & fold becoming visible across this amazing landscape of the southern Appalachians!



First Significant
December Precipitation Event
( December 5-7, 2011 )

December 7, 2011
Standing Water Surrounded By Snow
Photograph by Isaiah Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Isaiah Addington ( Roddy's son ) captured the major aspect of this event by showing standing water from yet another big precipitation maker that generated strong rises on creeks and rivers.

My friend Andrew Greear measured a total of 2.41" at the Norton Water Plant, with around 0.37" of that being in the form of wet snow, boosting the 2011 tally to 73.24" for the City of Norton.

My friends Otis & Nancy Ward had a precipitation total of 2.55" in the Robinson Knob community of the High Knob Massif, boosting 2011 to 78.29" and their 12-month total to 82.12" ( despite substantial missing gage moisture in deep snows last winter ).

River Rises 11.86 Vertical Feet
River Gage Height At Speers Ferry In Scott County

Run-off from much of this precipitation generated another huge rise on the Clinch River with nearly 12 vertical feet of total increase being observed at Speers Ferry in southern Scott County. 

[ Note that a general 0.30" to 0.60"+ of moisture was locked away in snowfall which reduced run-off during this event ].


Wonderland In Lights
Camp Bethel In Wise, Virginia
December 7, 2011

Magic Of The Holiday Season - Camp Bethel In Lights
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.


Roddy took time to capture the holiday season with a drive out to always beautiful Camp Bethel, resting upon 160 acres on the Tennessee Valley Divide of the Wise Plateau.

The lake at Camp Bethel is only 3.5 air miles north of the northern-most base of the High Knob Massif, near Ramsey, and is approximately 6.6 air miles north-northeast of the Dam at Upper Norton Reservoir.

Lake Elevation of 2520 feet
Snow Adds To Holiday Beauty At Camp Bethel
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Several inches of snow added to the beauty of this magical scene by the lake at Camp Bethel, with tree bows hanging low under the high density snow.

December 7, 2011
Beautiful Snow At Camp Bethel
Making Kids Jealous In The Tri-Cities
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Scenes such as these no doubt make many kidos, and "grown-ups" too, jealous who missed out on significant snow accumulations in the Tri-Cities to Knoxville corridor of the Great Valley.

Camp Bethel in Wise
Sugar Canes & Snow - Dream Come True
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

With such strong NW-N winds pushing into windward slopes of the High Knob Landform and higher portions of the Tennessee Valley Divide it is no wonder that sticking snow was hard to come by in the Tri-Cities, given such air trajectories add warming & drying to low-levels of the atmosphere.

NASA Visible Satellite Image At 9:31 AM - December 8, 2011
Image Courtesy of the Earth Science Office

Snow on visible imagery tends to show up best over flatter, more open terrain.  The rolling farms of both Russell & Tazewell counties show up better than their higher mountain ridges.

In the High Knob Landform, a narrow stripe of snow is visible along Wallen Ridge to the Buzzard Roost where it abruptly ends in northeast Lee County.  The crestline of Cumberland Gap NHP is faintly visible along the stateline above far western Lee County.

The crestline of Little Stone and Stone mountains is also visible to just past Cave Springs Wilderness Area, with the inverted V-shape of Powell Valley in Wise County being completed by the bulge of the High Knob Massif to the southeast and the capped crestline of its Little Stone Mountain arm toward the northwest.

Some of the white on this image is clouds where gravity waves are visible across northern portions of West Virginia & Virginia. Wavy cloud streets are also seen where cold air flows over the Atlantic.

Note the abrupt cut-off on snow visible in the above image south of northern Scott County where air flow plunges downward off the highcountry of the High Knob Massif.

The southwest extension of snow visible through Russell County is northeast of the downsloped forced shadowing zone leeward of the massif on N to NW air flow trajectories.

NAM Model 850 MB Chart At 7 PM - December 7, 2011
Image Courtesy of NCEP Central Operations

This is illustrated by the above chart where air flow above the boundary layer of Earth tends to run parallel to the black isobars, or lines of equal pressure ( north to south flow in this case ).

At the surface, by contrast, drag of air flowing across the terrain generates friction that forces a cross-isobaric turning of the wind field as illustrated by the NW wind vector arrows.

The result of these two factors was a strong N-NW air flow crossing the High Knob Massif, with general 3" to 6" snow depths along its windward slopes verses little to no sticking snow leeward of the massif on downslope forced drying & warming. 

[ Renewed lifting by the secondary front range along the TN-NC border, with respect to NW air flow, was required to generate enough cooling to deposit snow once again ( leaving much of the Great Valley devoid of snow accumulations ) ].

Beautiful Camp Bethel in Wise
Lollipops & Snow - Could It Get Any Better?
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

My friend Darlene Fields captured numerous nice scenes as she came down out of the highcountry toward Tacoma, along State Route 706, during December 8.

Along Stone Mountain Road ( State Route 706 )
Winter Beauty Near Stone Mountain Church
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Snow stuck best to trees in sheltered places such as high hollows, coves, and lower portions of the mid-elevation zone where wind speeds were not as strong ( as illustrated on Long Ridge ).

Along State Route 706 in Wise County, Virginia
Canadian Hemlock ( Tsuga canadensis ) Bows In Snow
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

It was a winter wonderland drive along scenic Stone Mountain highway, State Route 706, with thick snow on trees in sheltered places.

December 8, 2011
Winter Wonderland Drive - High Knob Massif
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Snow depth decreased into lower elevations, but it looked pretty sticking to trees and bushes against the blue sky of December 8.

December 8, 2011
Lower Elevations Above Tacoma Valley
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

A little different from half a foot of depth to add more interesting variety to this already amazing mountain landscape!

High Knob Massif during December 7, 2011
Half A Foot Of Ground Depth - High Chaparral
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Speaking of which, check out this latest video production by my friend Richard Kretz who highlights many wonderful attributes of 


Southwest Virginia: 
One Of The Last Great Places On Planet Earth!

Produced & Directed by Richard Kretz


A fantastic overview of biodiversity in the Upper Tennessee River Basin of southwestern Virginia.  Thank you my friend!


[ *Note: A link to this video can always be found along the right column of this website under Richard's name and email address ].