Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter Wonderland - Early December 2009

High Knob Massif - December 6, 2009
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The High Knob Landform

The first significant snow event of the 2009-10 winter season spread a sparkling blanket of pristine whiteness across the rugged mountain landscape during December 5th.

James Bolling measured 6" snow depths on Little Mountain of the High Knob Massif, above lovely Big Cherry Lake, with drifts to 14" 

Snowfall totals of 6-7"+ were common at higher elevations of the massif, above 3200 feet, with local drifting.

RIME & Hoar Frost combined with snowfall to transform the High Knob highcountry into a true and ultimate wonderland of wintry scenes, as so beautifully captured by photographer Roddy Addington on the morning of December 6.

Winter Wonderland of Crystals - High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

As skies cleared temperatures plunged to frigid levels over the snowpack, with single digits and teens being felt by sunrise on December 6.

The coldest conditions developing in high basins of the massif, with valley floors sitting at 2400 to 3600 feet above sea level, such that every bit of moisture became part of a world of frozen crystals!

Crystalline Majesty Amid Frigid Conditions
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Viewed up close, crystalline swirls around a stem take on forms of miniature Christmas Trees made of frozen water vapor.

Simply incredible!

Christmas Trees In ICE - High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The true, awesome beauty of winter in the highcountry takes on so many amazing forms. 

It's pure MAGIC.

Consider, for example, this truly magnificent transformation of an umbel of a former wildflower that has seemingly been brought back to life by a crown of crystalline jewels!

High Knob Massif
Crown of Crystalline Jewels - December 6
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

RIME was again on stunning display amid early morning light, encasing otherwise ulgy stems in dazzling beauty.

Dazzling Rime In Early Morning Light - High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The December 5th snowfall event was fast moving with generally light winds that acted to reduce orographic forcing, riming, and drifting of snow ( although significant across the highlands ).

An important factor during this episode was infiltration of cold air into windward facing slopes and crestlines of the great High Knob Landform and Tennessee Valley Divide.

The result was ALL snow, even amid the lowest valleys, from the High Knob Massif northward into lower and middle elevations of Wise & Dickenson counties.

[ By contrast, warmer temperatures leeward of the High Knob Landform, and some of its high crestlines, allowed precip to begin as rain within portions of the Clinch and Powell River valleys, in locations such as Duffield, Jonesville, and Fort Blackmore ].

Wintry beauty was captured amid the highlands of southern Dickenson County by photographer Wayne Riner, where 5" of snow depth were measured on Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge.

Wintry Beauty In Highlands Of Dickenson County
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

For those not familiar with the great High Knob Landform, and its adjoining Tennessee Valley Divide, the following photo by Wayne Riner truly exemplifies the sheer STEEPness of terrain within this portion of the southern Appalachians!

Old Metal Barn - Riner Farm - December 5, 2009
Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

[ How about climbing up and down that slope EVERY day?  No, we are NOT one short-legged hillbillies.  We are very PROUD and independently tough-minded MOUNTAINEERS! ].

A scene of great autumn beauty which was so gorgeously captured during October 2009 was duplicated at Smith Cemetery on Long Ridge during December 5.

Smith Cemetery on Long Ridge - December 5, 2009
 Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

To refresh your memory, as to what this exact same scene looked like during October, please reference the following section of my website: .

Scroll down to Outside The Lifting Zone, and look at the first photograph entitled: "Golden Maples and Yellow Poplars."

[ Perhaps we may get Wayne to also take a view of this during Spring and Summer, for a composite of the four distinct seasons which makes this part of the world so amazing! ].

As you view this pictorial history of the December 5th event, something very interesting emerges for those with sharp eyes!

Trees across the highlands of southern Dickenson County are largely devoid of snow, with only those most sheltered from the wind sporting a coating 
( such as those on the leeside of ridges ).

Lying within the 2500-3000 foot elevation zone, or in the middle elevations, the highlands of southern Dickenson are generally below the RIME formation zone during many events.

Gusty winds, like those which howl across the High Knob Massif, are thus able to efficiently blow snow off most tree branches amid these middle elevations along the Tennessee Valley Divide 
( in contrast to upper elevations in the High Knob Massif, where RIME simply increases with increasing wind ).

This once again illustrates the difference between RIME and SNOW, as rime thrives in wind, growing into it with great vigor as air flow becomes stronger and more moist.

[ Long Ridge and adjacent locations along the Tennessee Valley Divide, such as the Wise Plateau, get into the RIME formation zone occasionally when cloud bases drop very low in sub-freezing air for prolonged periods of time.

During many events, however, the rime formation zone remains at elevations of 3000 feet or above ].

In mountain valleys, north of the High Knob Landform, the lack of wind allowed snow to thickly coat trees along rivers in northern portions of Dickenson County.

Reflections of Snow - December 5, 2009
 Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Sheltered mountain ridges in the lee of Pine Mountain, seen stretching along the horizon of northwestern Dickenson County in Roddy's photograph below, were also heavily coated with snow.

Pine Mountain of the Cumberlands - December 5, 2009
 Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

[ Thus, a rather interesting distribution occurred from TOP to BOTTOM, with RIME coated trees above 3000 feet, mostly bare trees between 2000-3000 feet, and snow coated trees below 2000 feet ].

A rather classic country scene, typical of our rustic mountain heritage, was captured in the historic Skeetrock community of Dickenson.

Classic Mountain Charm - Skeetrock Community
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

A few December 5th snow reports included:

Flatwoods of Lee County: 2" depth

Town of Haysi: 3" depth

Pound: 3" depth

Clintwood 1 W: 4.1" ( 3-4" depths )

Head of Powell Valley: 4" depth

City of Norton: 5.0" ( 4-5" depths )

Town of Wise: 3-5"+ depths

Nora 4 SSE: 5.4" ( local drifts on Long Ridge )

Little Black Mountain: 5" depth ( VA-KY border )

High Knob Massif: 5-7"+ ( drifts to 14"+ )

As the weather pattern began to transition toward another MAJOR storm system, with HIGH winds and heavy rainfall, a simply STUNNING array of cloud formations were captured above Wallen Ridge in Lee County by Harold Jerrell.

Morning Sky Above Wallen Ridge - December 7, 2009
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

These supremely majestic colorations decorated the sky above Wallen Ridge just long enough to allow Harold to capture a series of absolutely incredible scenes!

Supreme Skies - Lee County of High Knob Landform
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Are these not just heavenly!

Heavenly Skies - Lee County - December 7
  Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

That shot is a KEEPER!

A special thanks to everyone who measured snow depths during this event and, of course, to each of the fantastic photographers who made this update so glorious!

Special Edition: The Mountain & The Man

This page is being republished and updated as a tribute to Addison Stallard who passed at the age 
of 99 years on May 17, 2019.

*Originally Published in December 2009

High Knob Massif
Summer In The Head of Powell Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

This photograph is of a great mountain, which rises above a man who knows it in a way unlike anyone alive today. 

He's lived beneath it nearly his entire life, and portions of the Valley spreading out from it's great mass have been in his family for more than 176 years!

Interior Valley of the High Knob Massif
Morning Fog Covers The Floor of Powell Valley 
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

In years past, this used to be 
the stomping ground of The Man!

This website does not typically recognize the birthdays of
family and friends, although all are treasured and respected.

It is not every day, however, that a friend 99 years old
passes from this Earth with such a strong connection to
the landscape of High Knob.  From Powell Valley to the
Big Cherry wetlands, Addison had a strong and unique
connection to this landscape.

Big Cherry Lake Wetland Valley
 Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

This is a special tribute to:
Addison M. Stallard

I really am not certain, even after all these years, 
of what the "M" stands for.  Perhaps, Methuselah, now that he's turning the BIG 90 on December 7 in the year 2009.

All I know for certain, is that 
it stands for "My Friend."

Addison is a very POSITIVE influence in my life and has made the world around him a much better place.

That is the greatest tribute which can be bestowed 

upon anyone, since ultimately it matters not how much money you have or what rank you hold in society.

What matters, plain and simple, is that this world 
( around YOU ) is left a BETTER PLACE for YOU having lived.  Addison is an exemplary example from which we all may learn this most vital principle of human life.

If your life has not been what you wanted it to be, TODAY is a new day!  Everyone has special gifts, whether they are recognized or not, which make them UNIQUE.

Discover those gifts and use them to make the world around YOU a better place.  They may seem so little, but ultimately mean so very much to someone, or something. 

Fire Pink (Silene virginica)
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Addison and his truly beloved Elizabeth are simply extraordinary folks, as anyone fortunate enough to know them can testify.

Elizabeth lived a while in Lee County, Va., before moving with her family into the Head of Powell Valley in Wise County at the sweet age of 15 
( time has only made her sweeter ).

Addison was not living in "The Valley" at the time Elizabeth initially moved there.  He had moved to another state with his family, after being born and raised in The Valley. 

Upon a return visit to see his Grandparents the beauty of The Mountain, The Valley, and the new "Girl Next Door" could simply never again be let go from his heart! 

Powell Valley Sunset
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Elizabeth & Addison both have strong, deep roots in the High Knob Landform that extend back to its original settlers, as noted in opening remarks.

The best way for those not knowing this Man, and the Mountain above, is to hear him speak in HIS OWN words via a composite of speeches he's given to various groups over the years ( ** ).

**I have selected portions from his speeches which I think will give you a feeling for why I have come to love this man, and to respect his life and wisdom so very much.

In these words you will learn of this wonderful man and his loves for this magnificent mountain landscape and his sweet Elizabeth, whose life ultimately made this tribute possible!

All the words below belong to Addison.  Only a few numbers have been changed to reflect the passing of time since these words were publicly spoken by THE MAN!

The Spoken Words of 
Addison Stallard

Addison Stallard
Photograph by Wayne Browning

Isaac Willis was my great-great-grandfather. Ora Willis Gilly was my great-grandmother and I was privileged to meet her once, when I was very young. 
I remember that occasion very well. 
She lived to be near 95 years of age.

Her son, George Melvin Gilly, was my grandfather. I was born in his home. He influenced my life more than any other individual. He taught me so much. And though he has been gone 62 years, it is the rare day when I do not mention his name. Elizabeth says he will continue to live as long as I live.

Summer Beauty In Powell Valley of Wise County
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

I was born in the Valley and have never been happy when away from it. Though others have had title to most of the land, 
it has seemed like mine.

As a boy, I roamed and hunted over all 
of it without needing to ask permission. 
It belonged in the family!  They hunted 
on our land without asking.

As a boy, I could start at the eastern boundary of the golf course and walk, 
hunt or fish almost to the present quarry, without stepping on land that did not 
belong to a Jones, Willis, Collier, or Gilly.

As one drives up the new four-lane 
( U.S. 23 ) highway from Big Stone Gap toward Norton, Powell Mountain is on the right and Stone Mountain ( Little Stone Mountain ) on the left. There are those who will not consciously see either mountain. They will look ahead and think only of their destination. Others will observe the Valley and the mountain beyond, and admire what they see.

View From Powell Valley Overlook
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Some will stop at the scenic overlook and enjoy the view without knowing who lives 
in the houses below, or anything about the small church. They may not see the little creek which divides the Valley. They will snap their pictures and drive away.

As Elizabeth and I drive up this highway, 
I look at the Valley and then the mountain. I see things which probably no other eyes see.

Small Lady's-slipper Orchids (Cypripedium parviflorum)
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

I see Sheep Gap and Beaver Dam Gap, Beaver Dam spring, where I've camped many times, the Jake place and the 
Jake spring.

As we continue, my mind's eye sees the hickory orchard, with its two-or-three-acre stand of giant Shagbark Hickory trees. A dim path, which may not be visible to other eyes, passes through trees which may no longer be standing, but still are in the corners of my memory.

Pink Lady's-slipper Orchids (Cypripedium acaule)
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The path winds around above the head of Sugar Camp Hollow where, in years long past, maple sap was boiled down to become maple syrup and maple sugar.

I see outlines of what once was Uncle Creed Collier's mountain pasture, now overgrown with trees & bushes. I wonder if the clear, cold spring still bubbles up from between the roots of the large ash tree in the pasture. Probably not; the tree may 
be long gone.

My eyes pass over Uncle A Collier's cold spring. As mentioned earlier, he owned the farm adjacent to my grandparent's property.

As a boy of 7 or 8, I would travel out our 
dug road, past the "far spring," through our woodland and down the steep hill to where he lived. His unmarried daughter, Nannie, had remained with him.

We would sit before the fireplace in winter and he would tell me hunting tales. In summer the canopy of wild plum trees in his front yard provided a resting place.

When milking time was near, I'd go with him to bring in the cows, then I'd climb the hill, walk through the woods, go past the far spring, out the dug road, wash up and eat my evening meal, usually milk and cornbread. Grandma's molasses 
stack cake or apple pie were always 
there if one desired dessert.

As Elizabeth drives, if I look quickly I can catch a glimpse of my grandparent's home, and if one knows when and where to look, the High Knob Tower ( before it's burning ) may be seen.

Summer Clouds Above High Knob Lookout
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

If we stop at the Powell Valley Overlook, I see much of that which others have seen, except I know something about the people in the houses.

I know the history of the small Presbyterian Church which I helped to build, and in which Elizabeth and I worked so hard for so many years. Our children grew up in that church.

As I think back 76 years, the scene below changes. Green corn fields and blue-gray oat fields appear. Wood smoke drifts up from the cooking fires as farm wives prepare the next meal. I visualize the winding, willow-lined creek with deep holes at every bend, washed out by current fed by spring rains, holes in which a boy could take a cooling dip after he filled his stringer with suckers and redeyes, with an occasional bass if he was lucky.

Big Cherry Lake Wetland Valley
Head of South Fork of Powell River
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Long ago farmers cut the willows, dredged the creek and straightened it so there would be no more bends and deep holes. And why not? They needed the land for their crops, rather than a place for boys to fish and skinny-dip.

With no bend or deep holes to impede its progress, the water now swiftly goes its way and the creek is little more than a ditch.

The enitre Valley floor is as familiar to me as my own fields. I've tramped every acre, sometimes with bird dogs or Beagle hounds, other times with a fishing pole or just to be roaming about.

As I lift my eyes once more to the mountain I see not an inanimate object as one would see a pyramid or a monument or statue, but I see a living thing! The mountain changes shapes, colors, moods.  She sometimes flexes her muscles and sends large boulders crashing down from the cliffs into the trees below.

Changing Moods In The High Country
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Her moods are at times bright and cheery, sometimes somber, even brooding. She may don a crystal cap embedded with countless jewels which sparkle with an unbelievable brilliance as she is greeted with a kiss from the morning sun. She may wave and sing as breezes play through her ledges and dance through her treetops. Or she may show anger as high winds lash the trees and 
roar through the cliffs.

Red Trillium (Trillium erectum) of Spring
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

In spring the mountain dresses from the bottom up. The green begins outside our window; the maples in the field above show pink. The green slowly creeps up the slopes and when it leaps over the cliffs, our spirits soar with it, for then Spring has truly arrived, and if the Wood Thrush is not already on the hill behind the barn, 
she will not be far behind.

Turk's-cap Lily (Lilium superbum) of Summer
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

In summer the mountain is dressed in numerous shades of green. These difference shades show where the tulip poplars, oaks, beeches and lindens grow.

Gorgeous Autumn Maples Of High Knob
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Fall, of course, brings the most spectacular dress. Color begins at the top, then moves down the slopes and continues until she is magnificently clothed.

Autumn Comes To The High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

All too soon she disrobes, from the top. Leaves drift down until only gray, barren limbs and the brown forest floor are visible.

Majesty Of Winter In The High Country
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

Occasionally she dresses in a mantle of white --- in my youth, a time to follow the tracks of a fox or mink while unraveling the story of a previous night's search for food and survival, now a time to look from my dining room windows --- and wish for Spring!

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) In Spring
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

I am intimately acquainted with this mountain. Since early childhood she has drawn me like a magnet. I've touched every tree, rested on every mossy log, I've feasted on her bounty. I've gathered her walnuts and hickory nuts, her pawpaws and wild plums. I've quenched my thirst from her clear, cold springs, picked her berries and, yes, I've taken a few of her trees for my workshop. I've given little in return --- only my admiration and perhaps a special kind of love.

Sunset From High Knob Massif
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

The Valley and the mountain have, in a sense, dominated my life. There have been times past when I gave more of my time to them than to Elizabeth, and sometimes I brought bouquets of wildflowers as penance offerings, or to soften my feelings of guilt, though Elizabeth never complained.

Cove of Big Cherry Lake Wetland Valley
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved

There are those who find it difficult to understand the depth of feeling a mountaineer, such as I, can have for 
his land.

Elizabeth and I live in the home we began building when we were married 68 years ago. It is adjacent to my grandparent's farm which we bought many years ago. This land has been in the family more than 150 years ( as of 1993 ).

Three times each day we sit in our dining room, which is mostly glass, and admire the beauty around us.

We are blessed!

High Knob Massif
Sunset From Flag Rock Recreation Area
Photograph by Wayne Browning - © All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December Starts Frosty, Wild, and Squirrely!

Frosty Fog - Powell Valley of High Knob Massif - Dec 1

Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The dawn of December 2009 was greeted by a frosty, cold fog on the floor of majestic Powell Valley, as air drained outward from South Fork Gorge of the High Knob Massif.

High clouds streaming far ahead of the first important Gulf of Mexico storm system of the winter season, could already be seen above this frozen setting.

High Clouds Above Frozen Valley Floor

Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Fog vapor oozing outward from South Fork Gorge encased dormant winter vegetation within ice, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the much more abundant vapor which coats highcountry trees with RIME in sub-freezing air ( although via much different atmospheric processes ).

[ Rime coated the highest elevations of the High Knob Massif into the morning hours of December 4, with freezing drizzle down to below 3000 feet in elevation.  A more substantial rime event was just starting to take shape during the evening of December 4 ].

Encased In Frozen Vapor - December 1, 2009

Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

The above is sometimes called Hoar Frost, and produces a heavier deposition on objects than typical frost due to the presence of greater amounts of available moisture.

Frozen Tranquility In Powell Valley

Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Tranquility associated with this wondrous mix of  fog vapor and frost would prove to be relatively short-lived, as storm clouds surged across the mountains on ROARING SSE-SE winds during December 2.

Wind speeds of 30-60+ miles per hour were common across the area, with Wayne & Genevie Riner clocking a 56 mph gust from the SSE on Long Ridge at just after 1 PM ( sustained speeds reached 35 mph ).

Exotic Storm Clouds - December 2, 2009

Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

That high winds became especially prevalent during a break in the steadier rainfall, indicated that enhanced downward transport was aiding the process ( with locally energized turbulent mixing via the breaking of orographically generated gravity waves leeward of mountain crestlines ).

Photographer Roddy Addington reported that wind gusts were exceptionally strong on the open floor of Powell Valley, in the area of his frosty fog photographs above, which suggested gravity waves lee of the High Knob Massif were aiding downward transfer of high momentum air ( especially given that is a documented wave cloud formation zone on SE winds ).

Dramatic skies, complete with multiple rainbows, made for a memorable setting amid this high wind event.

Brilliant Rainbow Above Mountains - December 2

Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

Dramatic double rainbows were also captured by photographer Wayne Riner during the rainfall break, in advance of a secondary line of powerful winds and rain ( with embedded thunder ).

Double Rainbows - December 2, 2009

Photograph by Wayne Riner - © All Rights Reserved.

A peak wind gust to 55 mph, out of the SW, was clocked on Long Ridge with the evening activity during December 2.  A prolonged period of ROARING SW winds followed, post-frontal, with gusts to around 40 mph being measured at Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise into the early hours of December 3.

[ Numerous reports of tree and localized structural damage were documented across Wise County and adjacent localities ].

Although this event was relatively short-lived, orographics also had a distinct impact upon rainfall distributions into the windward slopes, and leeward zones, of the High Knob Landform ( HKL ) and adjacent mountain divides.

While Doppler radar from Jackson, Ky., is a little skewed, it had the best look at the event and reveals the most accurate rainfall estimations verses reality.

Doppler Radar Rainfall Estimate - JKL Doppler

Image Courtesy of Plymouth State Weather Center

Rainfall totals of 1.00-1.50"+ were generally estimated across the High Knob Landform, and within the zone approaching it from the southeast.

[ The JKL Doppler beam hits HIGH in the atmosphere to the southeast of the HKL, so not all of the rain it indicated reached into the Clinch and Holston River valleys.  However, the Doppler was detecting the enhanced rising motion generated within the atmosphere as strong SE air flow approached the HKL and its remnant massif of highcountry surrounding High Knob.

In fact, it is no accident that the max Doppler estimated 1.50"+ amounts are concentrated upstream of where the High Knob Massif sits!

Of additional interest, winds were so strong with this event that there was a bit more leeward drift of rainfall elements, so that totals within the depths of Powell Valley and the Norton Valley were greater than are sometimes observed during pure SE flow "warm" events ].

A point measurement made by Elizabeth & Addison Stallard, in the Head of Powell Valley of the High Knob Massif, found 1.01" of rain falling almost exactly upon the northwestern edge of the solid 1.00" isoline shown by the Doppler estimate.

By contrast, a hand-measurement made in Whitesburg, Ky., within the YELLOW max downslope zone, found only 0.32" of rainfall.

[ The downslope zone also includes much of Dickenson County, but in this case the MAX downslope on SE winds typically occurs within a corridor centered upon Letcher County, Ky., which sits leeward of the great High Knob Massif, Black Mountain, and Pine Mountain ].

Meanwhile, the past weekend and month has also featured some "squirrely" activity down in Lee County of the HKL.

And, I do mean SQUIRRELY!

Fox Squirrel ( Sciurus niger vulpinus )

Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Meet Charlie, a handsome Virginia Fox Squirrel ( Sciurus niger vulpinus ) who just KNOWS he's gorgeous!

Charlie is a personal friend of Harold Jerrell, as one can surely tell by these perfect POSES!

Charlie Striking A POSE for the Camera

Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Charlie, rainbows, exotic cloud formations, frosty fogs and SO VERY MUCH MORE are all collectively what makes the High Knob Landform ( HKL ) and Cumberland Mountains so great. 

[ Reference this section of my website to review highlights: ].

They are the reason for this website, pure and simple!

A truly spectacular late autumn scene that exemplies this,          was recently captured by Harold amid his majestically beautiful Lee County homeland of the HKL.

Rugged White Rocks of Cumberland Mountain - HKL

 Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Do you believe now?

Monday, November 30, 2009

November 2009 - An Unusual Month

November 30, 2009
Calcareous Core of High Knob Massif
Majestic Misty Waves of Wind Blown Fog
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Rising upward across rugged mountain walls of the High Knob Massif, rimming Powell Valley, misty waves of wind blown fog reveal hidden hollows and folds not typically seen on clear days.

Ribbons and multiple layers of white vapor swirl through tree tops and rocky crevices of the landscape to create new scenes with every passing moment, as captured by photographer Roddy Addington during this final afternoon of November 2009.

South Fork Gorge of High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Rolling across the highcountry, clouds break and thicken to cast varying shades of light upon this magnificent setting, during an afternoon many would deem as simply nasty!

Darkening Shadows Beneath Orographic Cap Clouds
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

Wet snowflakes, falling through dense layers of cloud vapor capping the High Knob Massif crest zone, would eventually dust the summits with a substance rarely observed during November.


November 2009 was an unusual month. It began and ended wet, with many dry hours in between.

In numerous ways, November was more like October ( minus it's gorgeous colorations ) than the end of autumn!

November 2009 ended as the driest month in more than a year. Typically, that climatological distinction is owned by October.

It generated very little snow, even on the summits, which was more like that typically observed during October, when the first light snowfalls of winter whiten the highcountry.

An array of gorgeous sunrises, sunsets, and amazing displays of frosty cold mornings mixed with nocturnal fog formations made the month spectacular amid the great High Knob Landform.

Even without the more typical array of snow and RIME events!

Magnificent Landscape - High Knob Massif
Photograph by Roddy Addington - © All Rights Reserved.

My friend Gary Hampton, superintendent of the Big Stone Gap Water Plant sitting amid great South Fork Gorge, reports that 3.88" of rain fell at Big Cherry Dam of High Knob during November.  That was 1.27" more than measured down at the Water Plant, and 2.01" more than observed at my official NWS station near Clintwood ( outside the lifting zone of the massif ).

November 2009 was the driest month observed at Big Cherry Dam since last October.

Monthly Precipitation Totals for 2009

Big Cherry Dam of High Knob Massif
Elevation: 3120 feet

January: 9.23"
February: 4.36"
March: 5.51"
April: 5.40"
May: 7.07"
June: 5.44"
July: 8.42"
August: 7.08"
September: 9.09"
October: 4.36"
November: 3.88"

2009 Total: 69.84" ( M )
12-Month Total: 78.33" ( M )

In reality, as previously discussed, there has been around 3.00"   of evaporational loss at Big Cherry Dam during the year, between hand-measurements, so that if it had been possible to measure every day by hand the 2009 tally through November would have been approximately 73.25" .

The above not including wind induced rain gage undercatches, and other sources of moisture loss such as that which is more common with frozen precipitation forms.

For an overview of this, please reference the following section of my website:

The evaporational loss at Big Cherry Dam being based upon observed losses at my official NWS station, in Clintwood, during the past year.

Autumn precipitation in the High Knob highcountry was enough to keep the water rolling, and Big Cherry Dam overflowing its spillway throughout the entire month of November 2009.

Water draining from eastern portions of the massif, out of Bark Camp Lake, also kept whitewater moving despite somewhat less total precipitation than observed within the Big Cherry Basin ( as captured below by mushroom expert and photographer Johnny Stanley ).

High Knob Massif
Upper Falls of Little Stony Creek Gorge
Photograph by Johnny Stanley - © All Rights Reserved.

Joe Carter reports that the Norton Water Plant had 2.77" of rainfall during November, which was 1.91" below their 1983-2004 mean ( with some missing data prior to 1998 ). 

Monthly Precipitation Totals for 2009

City of Norton Water Plant
Elevation: 2342 feet

January: 7.34"
February: 3.27"
March: 5.24"
April: 5.13"
May: 9.72"
June: 7.95"
July: 5.46"
August: 5.19"
September: 6.08"
October: 3.46"
November: 2.77"

2009 Total: 61.61"
12-Month Total: 70.19"

The meteorological autumn season of September-November generated 17.33" of rain at Big Cherry Dam of High Knob, and 12.31" in the City of Norton. 

A general 13.00-14.00"+ of autumn precipitation fell from Robinson Knob to Eagle Knob, with my friends Otis & Nancy Ward measuring 13.31" during the autumn at their lovely home
( 3230 feet elevation ).

Autumn rains generally varied from just below average, to just above average, across the Cumberland Mountains ( falling in between the EXTREMES highlighted below ).

Pristine Water - Little Stony Gorge High Knob Massif
Photograph by Harold Jerrell - © All Rights Reserved.

Snowfall was MUCH below average during autumn, with only a general 0.5" to 3.0" across upper elevations, above 3000 feet, during the season.  A dramatic departure from last autumn, when a general 2-3 FEET was observed within upper elevations of the High Knob Massif during October 1-December 1.

Regional Extremes During November 2009

Extreme was the word to describe the regional setting during November, with HUGE variations in rainfall totals between the Ohio River Valley and Atlantic Coast.

For a change from previous 2009 patterns, this unusual November generated extreme dryness across much of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, and extreme wetness from the New River Valley to the Virginia Tidewater.

Thanks mainly to remnants of former hurricane Ida, the following Virginia locations had record setting November rainfall tallies:

Richmond: 9.60" - Wettest November
Danville: 8.33" - 2nd Wettest in 62 years
Lynchburg: 8.19" - 2nd Wettest in 117 years
Roanoke: 7.44" - 3rd Wettest in 98 years
Blacksburg: 5.12" - 5th Wettest in 58 years.

The 9.60" of rain in the state capitol of Richmond was much needed, and boosted the 2009 precipitation total to 40.16" ( just shy of average for the year ).

By contrast, the following locations reported among their driest November's on record.

November 2009 Precipitation Totals

Jackson: 0.80" - Driest November
London: 0.62" - 2nd Driest
Lexington: 0.96"

West Virginia
Charleston: 0.74"
Huntington: 0.79"
Elkins: 0.84"
Parkersburg: 0.93"

Perhaps the most dramatic regional swing occurred in Paducah, Ky., which had 10.55" of rain to establish its wettest October on record, followed by a mere 0.56" during the next 30-days to mark its driest November of all-time.  Back to back monthly EXTREMES!