Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snowy December In High Knob Massif

A Snowy December Continues

Due to a computer problem the High Knob Landform website will not be displaying any photographs or graphics of these recent events at this time.

[ Please check back later for an array of wonderful images once this problem is fixed ].

A couple of major snow events have impacted the High Knob highcountry and its surrounding area so far during December 2010, with another one upcoming for the Christmas Holiday period of December 25-27.

Summary of Major Events
Local Storm Snowfall Totals

December 4-8
Clintwood 1 W: 9.6"
Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge: 13.0"
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif: 17.3"
Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif: 19.5"

December 11-15
Clintwood 1 W: 9.8"
Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge: 13.4"
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif: 14.3"
Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif: 18.5"

The December 4-8 episode is well documented below, in the next section, with more specific details and photographs of December 11-15 conditions upcoming later ( stay tuned ).

Meanwhile, pre-Christmas snowfall totals are off to a fast start this season as another big winter storm potential arises for the holiday period.  Significant snow accumulations of a foot or more will be likely across the already snow laden High Knob highcountry during the December 25-27 period.

December 2010 Snowfall Totals
( as of December 21 )

Clintwood 1 W: 23.7"
Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge: 30.8"
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif: 35.9"
Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif: 43.0"

Winter Season 2010-11 Snow Tallies
( as of December 21 )

Clintwood 1 W: 23.7"
Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge: 32.4"
High Chaparral of High Knob Massif: 40.4"
*Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif: 49.0"

*Approximate total ( local amounts may be greater ).

A general 40-50" of snowfall had occurred this season amid the High Knob highcountry, above 3000 feet, through morning hours of December 21.

A significant amount of this snow was still present in depth upon upper north slopes and crestlines of the massif, at highest elevations, with my friend Steve Blankenbecler of Virginia-Kentucky Communications reporting 14" of snow depth at a Eagle Knob snow marker on Monday amid numerous places with 24-30" of total depth ( following major settlement since Dec 14-15 ).

[ A surge of above freezing air and dense fog in low clouds worked to cause additional settlement and melting of the snowpack ( from Dec 20 measurements ) into daylight hours of December 22, with temps going below freezing again by early afternoon with sleet to snow ( melting most significant from roof-tops on Eagle Knob ) ].

Please check back later for photographs and more specific details.

Special Feature
History of Christmas Weather Conditions
for the 1979-2009 Period 
( 30-Years )

December 2009
Classic Christmas Scene - Wise, Virginia

1979...Snow, sleet, and freezing rain fell in 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...A snowfall total of 1.1" at Clintwood 1 W, and 1.6" at Wise 1 SE, was observed during the Christmas Holiday ( 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 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 low as -25 degrees below zero were reported in the area. 

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

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

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 amounts across the High Knob highcountry ( 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 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 the Dec 23-25 period.  A 4" snow depth was observed at Wise 1 SE on Christmas day, with deeper depths in the High Knob highcountry.

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

1991...Light 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 & 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 on 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.

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.

1996...A dramatic warming trend brought rain, with 0.98" to 1.01" measured in the City of Norton into Christmas Eve day ( 0.58" at Clintwood 1 W ).  Colder air and flurries returned during Christmas day.

1997...Mostly cloudy & mild holiday.  Rainfall totals of 0.26" at Norton WP and 0.15" at Clintwood 1 W into Christmas morning.  Major back to back winter storms followed Christmas, with snow depths of 12" in the City of Norton and 18" to 36" across the High Knob highcountry by Dec 31. 

1998...A preholiday ice storm during Dec 23-24, with 1" of packed ice and sleet remaining on the ground at Clintwood 1 W on Christmas morning.  For the second consecutive year significant snow followed Christmas, with depths of 4" in Clintwood and 6" to 10"+ across the High Knob Massif by December 31.

1999...Snow fell during December 24-25 with 3"    of depth observed at Clintwood 1 W on Christmas morning ( 7" on High Knob ).  Cold.  A Christmas morning temp of 3 degrees in Norton.

2000...A Christmas morning snow depth of 2" at Norton Water Plant ( Norton WP ), with 4" to 6" across the High Knob highcountry.  Cold with MINS near zero or below ( 3 degrees Norton ).

2001...Bare ground across the entire Appalachian range on Christmas morning ( south of the Pennsylvania border ).

2002...Christmas morning snow depth of 1"              at Norton WP, with new snow during the day increasing the mean depth to 4" by later on December 25 ( deeper across the High Knob Massif ).

2003...Christmas morning snow depth of 5" at Norton WP ( down from a mean depth of 14" on Dec 21 ).  Much deeper Christmas morning depths on northern slopes of High Knob Massif, above the City of Norton, where snow depths topped 20"      on December 21.

2004...Christmas morning snow depths of a foot or more in places across northern slopes of the High Knob Lake Basin were the most reported in the region ( up to 9" of depth were measured following 44 consecutive hours of above freezing temps into December 30 ).

2005...Christmas Eve found a solid blanket of snow covering only upper elevations of the High Knob Massif, with a generally bare landscape below 3000 feet.  A nasty mix of sleet and freezing rain created hazardous road conditions, with numerous traffic accidents and abandoned vehicles along Alt. 58 between Norton & Castlewood.  Christmas day featured an array of conditions that included rain showers, fog, lightning & thunder, peeps of sun and evening light snow ( 1-5" of snow fell during December 26 ).

2006...Christmas day got off to a chilly, wet start on gusty SSE-SE upslope flow into the High Knob Massif.  This formed standing lee wave clouds during the day.  Snowflakes subsequently flew, for the second year in a row, the day after Christmas with 2" to 3"+ of snow and riming in the High Knob highcountry.

2007...Warming temperatures and a couple of rain events washed away all the pre-Christmas snow from even the coldest, northern slopes such that bare ground was found yet again across the Appalachians ( south of PA ) for the third time this decade on Christmas ( not a surprise during this driest year on record, with its anemic 4" to 7" snowfall start to the 2007-08 winter ).

2008...Bitter cold temps prior to the holiday, with -6 below zero atop Eagle Knob of the High Knob Massif on Dec 22, gave way to rapid warming on strong winds.  Rain, not snow, arrived in time for Christmas Eve with up to 0.60" measured at Big Cherry Dam of the High Knob Massif.  For the third consecutive year, and the fourth time this decade, Christmas day dawned with no snow on the ground south of the PA border ( amazing given the general 27"-36" snow start to the 2008-09 winter in the High Knob highcountry ).

2009...Beware of what you wish for!  A Mega-DUMP snowstorm dropped 2-3+ feet of snow depth upon the High Knob Massif during December 18-19 ( with drifts of 4-5+ feet ), amid a orographically enhanced circulation.  The storm stranded residents and paralyzed the surrounding area with massive power outages that kept many in the dark right through the Christmas Holiday ( a few had no phone line service until February 2010 ).

These 30 Christmases ended with a great BANG, and BOOM, as the December 2009 winter storm was the most devastating event to strike locally during these 3 decades of diverse holiday season events!

[ Reference this section of the website for details:

MEGA-Disaster Snowstorm of December 2009
http://www.highknoblandform.com/2010/01/mega-disaster-storm-of-december-2009.html ].

2010...Second white Christmas in a row!  It would have been a white Christmas regardless, given the presence of old snow, but a fresh blanket of 2" to 3" accumulated into Christmas morning to mark the beginning of a prolonged period of upslope snow.  Depths on Christmas Morn varied from 3" to 7" in Clintwood to around 15" on Eagle Knob of the High Knob Massif.

[ Snow depths by December 27 varied from 7" to 13" in Clintwood to a general 12" to 24" above 3000 feet in the High Knob Massif        ( with drifts to 3 feet or more ) ].

A few data sources for this 30-year period included,

The High Knob Massif

Blue Ridge Public Television
Eagle Knob Weather Station
Terry Surface
Carl Henderson
Dennis Salyer
Marty Genusa
Wayne Browning

Virginia-Kentucky Communications
Steve Blankenbecler

High Chaparral Community
Joe & Darlene Fields and Family

Robinson Knob Community
Otis & Nancy Ward

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

Big Cherry Dam & South Fork Gorge
Gary Hampton & Staff of the Big Stone Gap Water Plant

Flat Gap Community
Johnny Combs

Head of Powell Valley
Elizabeth & Addison Stallard
Sharon Daniels

Cracker Neck of Powell Valley
Tracy & Jennifer Garrison

Skeens Ridge of Powell Valley
Ida & David Holyfield

Appalachia Lake
Jack Pitts & Staff of Appalachia Lake Water Plant

Dual Norton Reservoirs
Tommy Roberts & Staff of Norton Water Plant

Lakes of the High Knob Massif Area
Larry Robbins

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 Riner
Richard Kretz
Darlene Fields
Jimmy Stidham
Jonathan Owens
Otis Ward
Alan Cressler
Jimmy Fawbush
Ron Flanary
Johnny Stanley
Donnie Rose
Rodney Parsons
Karen Peters
Tim Mullins
John King
Beckie Roberts
Dan Weemhoff
Members of The Clinch Coalition
Members of The U.S. Forest Service
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

Town of Appalachia
Jack Pitts
Mark Quillin

Town of Coeburn
Coeburn Filtration Plant Staff

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

Town of Pennington Gap
Pennington Gap Water Plant Staff

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
Carol Borneman & Staff

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

Long Ridge of Sandy Ridge
Wayne & Genevie Riner

Special Thanks To The Main Photographers
Roddy Addington
Bill Harris
Harold Jerrell
Richard Kretz
Wayne Riner
Darlene Fields
Alan Cressler

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! 

Finally, an extra special thanks to my friend Roddy Addington whose been the lead photographer of this website and become a partner in this effort to showcase the High Knob Landform ( giving local residents, the region, and world new understanding for a very special portion of planet Earth! ).  

Rod now has his own fine print website that will feature many new photographs from nature to sports and beyond in the coming year.

[ Rod Addington Photography
http://www.rodaddingtonphotos.com/fine-art-prints ].