The past 60 years have seen a steady decline in snowfall across the South and Mid-Atlantic. But a monster blizzard crawling up the coast this weekend could be a sign that Old Man Winter is back.
“Woooo Hoooooo already white at my house!!!! Yippeeee.....,” wrote MadMaxsGirl on the Asheville Citizen-Times website Friday morning.
The return of wet Southern air and colder-than-usual temperatures set the scene for a snowy winter, boding well for skiers and snowball fighters. But it could be problematic for commuters who have grown comfortable on drier roads in recent years.
The storm has already brought flooding to downtown Miami, and it began dropping snow in Asheville, N.C., and upstate South Carolina Friday morning. The storm is expected to drop up to 14 inches on Mount Mitchell, North Carolina’s highest peak. (Record snow fell in Asheville in January 1998, when 18 inches dropped in a year that turned out to be the warmest on record.)
Heavy snow on some interstate highways
Winter storm watches and warnings extend from Georgia to Cape Cod in Massachusetts, with up to a foot of snow possible in Washington, D.C. Heavy snow is likely to affect travel along Interstate 81, with lots of snow also falling on Interstate 95.
West Virginia may see some of the biggest drifts, with meteorologists predicting over two feet, perhaps even three, in some isolated areas.
Following a couple of iffy snow years, Beech Mountain Resort in western North Carolina could get as much as two feet of snow on its machine-groomed runs in the next day or so, “putting us in great shape for the holidays,” says marketing director Talia Freeman.
Too much snow could discourage holiday shopping – a potential drawback for already-ailing retailers. (Of course, a white Christmas may also fuel the giving spirit.) But retailers in Asheville said they'll keep their doors open for holiday shoppers despite a forecast of as many as 12 inches of snow.
"It would take a lot for us to close at this time of year," Asheville Mall general manager Jeff Washburn told The Citizen-Times.
Colder temperatures predicted
The National Weather Service is predicting colder than average temperatures throughout the South and parts of the Mid-Atlantic well into next year. Meanwhile, wet, tropical air from as far away as China, part of a Pacific El Niño effect, is pumping steadily into the lower latitudes of the US, providing an impetus for continued snow.
“This year is certainly starting out on the right foot when it comes to snow,” says Ed O’Lendic, senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md. “We’ve seen a real downward trend in snowfall in the Mid-Atlantic states, so this snow will certainly seem like an even bigger increase because we’re not used to it.”
That means snowball fights, snowmen, and snow angels for youngsters, but adults trying to get to work may have to adjust their routines.
“Snowy weather can be difficult, but people relearn things,” says Mr. O’Lendic. “At times, some of us underestimate our ability to adapt to changing situations, but folks do catch on, and I think that’ll be the case here as well.”
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