Source: High Country Press
If you are new to North Carolina or know anything about the weather here you know that it can be tricky planning your day. One day it can be 70 degrees in January with sunny skies. The very next day it could be in the 20s with a chance of snow with less than two inches accumulating.
With conditions like this, you have to be prepared for anything that may come your way. Now imagine there is a place in North Carolina that has more extreme weather than that. Well, there is a place and it’s called Grandfather Mountain.
Let me say from experience that this place is the true definition of wild weather. I went to the mountains in the early fall a few years ago with some friends. We stayed in Asheville where the temperature there was in the mid-60s, maybe low 70s.
Our plan was to visit Grandfather Mountain and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, which I highly recommend to anyone visiting the mountains. We were wearing sweatpants and T-shirts or maybe long sleeve shirts that day. Once we arrived at Grandfather Mountain the temperature read 27 degrees from the car. We knew this was going to be interesting but there was no turning back and we froze for as long as we could before enough was enough. The winds were enough to make you think twice about all of your choices in life.
Grandfather Mountain has a history of frigid temperatures and high winds as it is one of the most extreme weather places on the east coast. In 2019 the mountain weather station recorded a wind gust at 124 mph. In January of 1985, a temperature of -32 degrees was recorded at the mountain. The arctic blast this past holiday season saw temperatures as low as negative 17 degrees and a windchill of negative 54 degrees. Snow is no stranger to the mountain with totals for a month as high as 55 inches. I’ll pass on a winter trip, boss!
I think it’s safe to say Grandfather Mountain can be called little Alaska without dispute. The staff at the park is prepared for all conditions and does a pretty amazing job of keeping the park running during extreme weather. The maintenance staff and park operators are responsible for evaluating the mountain each day to determine the park’s open status to the public. Crews use road salt for roadways and walking paths along with brooms to sweep the park’s main attraction in the mile-high swinging bridge. The bridge can freeze even when there is no wintry weather due to its elevation and moisture droplets freezing in cold air.
The park staff also keeps a close eye on animals in the area such as black bears. No matter the conditions, Grandfather’s habitat staff has to ensure that the bears, elk, eagles, cougars and otters have access to food and water during the winter, even if the habitats are inaccessible by car and the keepers need to hike up the mountain in the snow or ice to get to the animals.
If you have plans on visiting Grandfather Mountain make sure to check on road and train conditions before traveling up to the mountain. Visitors are encouraged to call 828-733-4337 or check www.grandfather.com before visiting the park to learn about the day’s conditions and opening status.
Click here to read more about Grandfather Mountain’s extreme weather prep.