Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Fast & Furious Storm of January 2013


January 18, 2013
Powell Valley Overlook of High Knob Massif
In Wake of The Fast & Furious Storm of January 17
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.


January 18, 2013
Little Stone Mountain Gap
Snow Laden Northern Slopes of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The Fast & Furious Storm
Snow Depth By Time Periods
January 17, 2013

City of Norton Water Plant
( Measurements by Joe Carter & Wes Ward )

12:30 PM to 2:11 PM  3.5"

12:30 PM to 3:30 PM  7.0"

12:30 PM to 5:00 PM  10.0"
10" of snow depth in 4.5 hours


Skeens Ridge of Powell Valley
( Measurement by Ida Holyfield )

12:45 PM to 5:00 PM  12.0"
12" of snow depth in 4.25 hours


January 18, 2013
Powell Valley Overlook
Cloud Capped High Knob Massif Above Powell Valley
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Significant freezing rain in the High Knob Massif and Tennessee Valley Divide, including Norton-Wise, enhanced both the majesty and hazardous nature of The Fast & Furious storm.

January 18, 2013
Wondrous Majesty of ICE & Snow
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.


January 18, 2013
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Majestic Wake of The Fast & Furious Storm
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

January 18, 2013
Remnant Massif of The High Knob Landform
Wonderland of Ice & Snow Following The Fast & Furious
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

High Knob Massif - Norton Area
Result of Freezing Rain Before The Fast & Furious
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

During many storm events the summit level 
of High Knob may change to snow long before adjacent valleys.  However, in this case, there was not more than a 30 minute difference between transition from freezing rain-rain to HEAVY snow from High Knob to Powell Valley, Norton-Wise, Long Ridge, and Clintwood.

January 18, 2013
High Knob Massif - Norton Area
Icicles Formed On Trees Before The Fast & Furious
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

All locations changed within the Noon to 1:00 PM 
period on January 17, 2013.

January 18, 2013
Rough Conditions In Wake of The Fast & Furious
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Like flipping a switch, and putting the petal to the metal, it was a FAST & FURIOUS snowstorm complete with lightning, thunder ( convection ), huge snowflakes, and blinding rates of fall.



History of The Fast & Furious 

January 18, 2013
Long Ridge of Tennessee Valley Divide
Eleven Inches Of Snow Fell In 4 1/2 Hours
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Nora 4 SSE on Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge
( Measurement by Wayne & Genevie Riner )

12:30 PM to 5:00 PM  11.0"
11" of snow depth in 4.5 hours

It became very evident in the day or two leading up to this blitz event that it would be potent.  For those who get my climate newsletter I wrote the following on January 16.

"There is growing potential with each new forecast model run, during the past couple days, of a HIGH IMPACT, CRIPPLING Snowfall Thursday.

This is shaping up to be a FAST & FURIOUS event with a Miller A ( northward variant ) type of surface low spin-up ( maybe with more NE-NW air flow ).  Due to high instability and other parameters, thundersnow will also be possible in places."

January 17, 2013
Long Ridge of Tennessee Valley Divide
Heavy Snow During The Fast & Furious
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

For some reason, a review of the forecasted parameters leading up to this event made me think of the movie series The Fast & The Furious, so I named this storm 
( as you certainly know by now ) "The Fast & Furious."

In reality, with hindsight, it ended up 
being 2 Fast 2 Furious for MANY!

January 17, 2013
Long Ridge of Tennessee Valley Divide
Too Fast & Too Furious - Snow Gets Heavier
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

James Bolling reported that he could not see more than 50 FEET as the storm peaked at his home above Big Cherry Lake in the 
High Knob Massif.

Snowfall became so heavy, the sky so dark, that street lights came on in Wise by 4:00 PM as well documented by photographer Roddy Addington.

January 17, 2013
Street Lights Come On Amid Heavy Snow In Wise
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

In Norton & Wise the most intense portion of this storm was observed during the 3-hour period from 1:00 to 4:00 PM, when the bulk of 10" of snow depth accumulated ( note icicles on power lines below ).

January 17, 2013
Significant Icing Before The Fast & Furious
Heavy Snow & Icicles On Power Lines In Wise
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.



Time Series From UVA In Wise
Click Consecutively On Images For Changes

Comparison View From January 16, 2013
University of Virginia's College In Wise At 3:33 PM

January 17, 2013
University of Virginia's College In Wise At 1:38 PM

January 17, 2013
University of Virginia's College In Wise At 2:34 PM

January 17, 2013
University of Virginia's College In Wise At 2:50 PM

January 17, 2013
University of Virginia's College In Wise At 3:01 PM

January 17, 2013
University of Virginia's College In Wise At 4:18 PM

January 17, 2013
University of Virginia's College In Wise At 4:30 PM

January 17, 2013
University of Virginia's College In Wise At 4:54 PM

January 17, 2013
University of Virginia's College In Wise At 10:36 PM

January 18, 2013
University of Virginia's College In Wise At 12:31 PM

A general 8" to 16" of snow depth was reported in the hardest hit corridor that stretched from the High Knob Massif - Powell Valley area northeast across the Wise & Sandy Ridge plateaus of the Tennessee Valley Divide into parts of Buchanan & Russell counties ( with another heavy sector from around Bluefield across southern portions of the Greenbrier Valley, as displayed graphically below ).

January 18, 2013
Univerisity of Virginia's College In Wise
Peaceful In Wake Of The Fast & Furious
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Snow depths decreased northwest of this heaviest band, with 6" to 7" depths in Clintwood and 3.5" 
in Grundy.  Amounts diminished further to the northwest, with little to no snow northwest of 
Pine Mountain across most of Kentucky.



It appeared that "ground zero" for the heaviest snow set up within the deformation band from the crest zone of the High Knob Massif into parts of Powell Valley and across Norton, Wise, Coeburn and the Sandy Ridge plateau where 10" to 16" of snow depth was reported by observers 
( all accumulated in around 4 1/2 hours ).

A deformation band is a classic feature of synoptic storms, and basically denotes the region in which air flow converges ( comes together ) in low-levels of the atmosphere and diverges ( spreads apart ) aloft.  

This generates upward vertical motion ( rising air ) which can be strong and, in the presence of instability gradients in particular, even support lightning and thunder ( thundersnow ).

January 17, 2013
Heavy Snow At Nora 4 SSE on Long Ridge
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Coeburn Filter Plant on Toms Creek
( Measurements by Tracy Garrison & Staff )

12:30 PM to 5:00 PM:  14.0"
14" of snow depth in 4.5 hours

January 17, 2013
Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge
Large Snowflakes As Intensity Changes
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

It is interesting to note that snow depth variations in the area were not as much impacted by local terrain effects ( e.g., upsloping & downsloping ) as they were by convection, which was widespread to even influence rates of snowfall in places that may not had seen lightning and heard thunder.

January 17, 2013
Intense Snowfall In Wise With Rapid Accumulation
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A NASA visible satellite time series illustrates this very well, as I captured approaching sunset where the lower sun angles were helping illuminate tall, convective cloud tops over the area.

NASA Visible Time Series
Click consecutively on images for motion

NASA Visible Image At 2:45 PM - January 17, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 3:15 PM - January 17, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 3:31 PM - January 17, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 3:45 PM - January 17, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 4:15 PM - January 17, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 4:31 PM - January 17, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 5:01 PM - January 17, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 5:15 PM - January 17, 2013

Heavy icing upon which a foot of snow fell in the High Chaparral to Robinson Knob communities of the High Knob Massif was illustrated well in the following scene by my friend Darlene Fields.

January 17, 2013
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif
Heavy Snow On Top of Heavy Icing
Photograph by Darlene Fields - © All Rights Reserved.

Although relatively small in aerial size, with rapid spin up and spin down, the system responsible for The Fast & Furious burst of snow was potent despite its weakening upper level low.

Graphical Time Series of Storm History
Click consecutively on images for motion

NAM Model Initialization At 7:00 AM - January 16, 2013

NAM Model Initialization At 7:00 PM - January 16, 2013

NAM Model Initialization At 7:00 AM - January 17, 2013

NAM Model Initialization At 7:00 PM - January 17, 2013

NAM Model Initialization At 7:00 AM - January 18, 2013



Impacts of The Fast & Furious

January 18, 2013
Powell Valley Overlook in Wise County
Clouds Lay Across High Country In Wake Of Storm
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

When 6" to 16" of snow depth accumulates in only 4 to 5 hours it is obviously going to be a crippling event, with power outages, traffic mishaps, and blocked-closed roadways being the main problems.

January 18, 2013
U.S. 23 At Powell Valley Overlook
Heavy Icing & Snow In Little Stone Mountain Gap
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Although 128,000 places lost electricity in the AEP service area during this event, outages along and west of the High Knob Massif - Tennessee Valley Divide corridor ( amid the zone of deepest snow ) were reduced by cold air already in place before the transition to intense snowfall.

January 18, 2013
Little Stone Mountain Gap - U.S. 23
Heavy Ice Accumulation On Trees
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A snow core taken at Clintwood 1 W yielded a 12:1 snow density, much lower than the crippling storm events of January 1998 and December 2009.  Snow was still 
wet enough to cause outages, but not like could have occurred had it possessed as high of density as these previous monsters.

January 18, 2013
Orchard Road on Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge
Deep Snow In Wake of The Fast & Furious Storm
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

While seeming ironic, perhaps, the colder air that led to freezing rain before the event resulted in a lower density fall of heavy snow than in locations to the east and south ( where snow density was higher but total fall much less in most places ).

January 18, 2013
Hard At Work ( Having Fun ) In Wise
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Many certainly enjoyed The Fast & Furious, but much hard work was also done by so many to aid recovery before a big blast of bitter air arrived.

January 18, 2013
Cleaning Up In Downtown Norton
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

As always, a major job was opening up roads that were simply buried by snow falling so fast that no plow could keep pace.  Portions of many major routes in Wise County had to be closed.

January 18, 2013
Heading from Wise Toward Norton on U.S. 23
Orographic Cloud Obscures High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

January 18, 2013
Road Conditions In The Town of Wise
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.


Whitewater Action In The High Knob Massif
Running Little Stony Gorge
Whitewater of The Fast & Furious

January 19, 2013
High Knob Massif
Clinch River of Upper Tennessee Basin
Upper Falls of Little Stony Creek Gorge
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A good aspect of The Fast & Furious fall of snow was that it locked up much water content which would have otherwise ran directly into already gushing creeks and rivers.

River Level In Feet At Speers Ferry Gage

The Clinch River at Speers Ferry, in southern 
Scott County, Va., crested 4.55 feet above flood stage downstream of gushing creeks draining the 
High Knob Massif during January 16.

This was the result of a stalled frontal boundary featuring training waves of moderate to heavy rainfall across the southern Appalachians, with general 4.00" 
to 5.00"+ rain amounts during the January 13-16 period from the High Knob Massif south across the Great Valley of eastern Tennessee.

An awesome whitewater run through plunging Little Stony Gorge was captured on high quality film by Watersheds Films.

January 17, 2013
Little Stony Gorge of High Knob Massif
One For The Books - Little Stony Creek Whitewater


Watch In Full Screen Mode
For Best Viewing.

Reportedly up to 15" of snow fell in just 3 hours in the Gorge area ( reference Youtube footnotes ).

Other reports of around 15" of snow depth came from this section which extended east into the St. Paul - Castlewood area and north into Sandy Ridge along the Wise, Dickenson, Russell border.

Little Stony Creek drains 16.43 square miles ( 10, 515 acres ) of the High Knob Massif into the ecologically renowned Clinch River of the Upper Tennessee River Basin.

Big Stony Creek drains 41.87 square miles ( 26, 797 acres ) of the High Knob Massif area into the Clinch River along a 13 mile course downstream of High Knob Lake.  The Big Stony Creek Basin is west of the Little Stony ( and should not be confused with it ).

January 18, 2013
Powell Mountain Flank of High Knob Massif
Cap Cloud Upon Grindstone Ridge Dome 
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The general 1.50" to 2.00"+ of water equivalent precipitation which mostly accumulated in frozen form across the High Knob Massif - Tennessee Valley Divide during January 17 reduced run-off into the Clinch, Powell, and Russell Fork rivers.

January 18, 2013
Long Ridge of Tennessee Valley Divide
Garden Rests Beneath A Snowy Blanket
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"The garden provided a full year's supply of food and now it rests under a blanket of snow."

January 18, 2013
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
The Famous Cumberland Gap Adorned In Snow
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Snow depths were much less amid the southwest end of the High Knob Landform, as often is the case, but still enough to majestically decorate Cumberland Gap National Historical Park 
in wintry beauty.

January 18, 2013
Tumbling Gap Creek of Cumberland Gap NHP
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Approximately 7.20" of total precipitation has been reported by Harold in the Silver Leaf community of Lee County, southeast of Rose Hill, so far during January 2013.

January 18, 2013
Beautiful Lines & Contrasts of Gap Creek
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Such a wet start to 2013 has water gushing out of highlands across the High Knob Landform into both the Upper Tennessee and Upper Cumberland river basins of the southern Appalachians.

January 18, 2013
Shillalah Creek Falls of Cumberland Gap NHP
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

January 18, 2013
Shillalah Creek of the Upper Cumberland River Basin
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.



View From Outer Space
NASA Visible Images of Snow

As skies began to clear the area of impact became visible from satellites in space during days following The Fast & Furious storm.

NASA Visible Image At 12:31 PM - January 18, 2013

Note where nothing "moves" over time is snow on the ground.

NASA Visible Image At 12:45 PM - January 18, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 1:15 PM - January 18, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 1:45 PM - January 18, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 2:01 PM - January 18, 2013

An interesting aspect is that snow on the ground shows up best upon a flat or rolling landscape, and least across convex or highly dissected terrain, when looking at it from satellites in space. 

NASA Visible Image At 9:45 AM - January 19, 2013

Observe how excellent the sprawling High Knob Massif stands out on NASA satellite imagery, with a darker presentation verses surrounding snow filled valleys, despite it having deeper snow.

NASA Visible Image At 9:45 AM - January 19, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 10:15 AM - January 19, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 11:02 AM - January 19, 2013

A few places of interest with labels.

NASA Visible Image At 11:02 AM - January 19, 2013

Although the High Knob Massif may not be the highest mountain in southwestern Virginia, such images reveal it is the dominant singular mass of mountain in western Virginia.

NASA Visible Image At 11:15 AM - January 19, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 11:45 AM - January 19, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 12:02 PM - January 19, 2013

NASA Visible Image At 12:15 PM - January 19, 2013



High Resolution MODIS Image

Although there are some clouds in this MODIS image, from the Kentucky foothills into mountains of southwestern Virginia, the basic pattern of snow cover shows up well across the Old Dominion.

Note the breaks having no snow with downsloping off portions of the Blue Ridge escarpment, and the lighter but relatively widespread coverage of snow across the Piedmont of Virginia-North Carolina into southern portions of Chesapeake Bay.

Modis Satellite Image With Labels of Interest




Interesting Resident & Colors
( More Than Just Black & White )

Nora 4 SSE MMTS Thermometer
Long Ridge of Tennessee Valley Divide
Junping Jack The Mockingbird ( Mimus polyglottos )
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

My friends Wayne & Genevie Riner have an interesting winter resident staying over from summer, a Northern Mockingbird they named Jumping Jack for the way he would jump up off tree branches and land back down upon them.

My friend & ornologist Dr. Richard Peake always taught that Mockingbirds are more typically found in towns and cities.  This makes Jumping Jack a special guest amid the rural mountain ridge setting of Long Ridge, where species such as Brown Thrashers  ( Toxostoma rufum ) and Gray Catbirds ( Dumetella carolinensis
are more commonly found ( * ).

*All three species have complex songs which are very interesting.

January 10, 2013
Russell Fork of Ohio River Basin
Majestic Morning Sunrise From Long Ridge
Burst Of Morning Color Above The Fog Bank
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Wayne Riner Photograph Thoughts...
"The burst of color did not last but a few moments, but it allowed time to stop and watch the fading colors above the fog."

Another gorgeous sunrise was also captured by Harold Jerrell above the Powell River Valley of western Lee County.

January 22, 2013
Powell River Valley of Upper Tennessee Basin
Majestic Morning Sunrise Above Silver Leaf
Photograph by Harold L. Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

January can certainly be a month of
much more than just black & white!