First Major Snow Storm Since 1996 Drops Two-Feet of Snow Across High Country

by Ron Fitzwater

For the first time in many years, the North Carolina High Country was hit with a winter blast that dumped upwards of two-feet of heavy, wet snow and left some residents stranded in their homes.

Beginning around 9 a.m. on Friday Dec. 18, very wet snow began to fall lightly but soon turned into blizzard-like conditions. The snow fell at a faster rate than salt trucks were able to keep up with and roads across the area began to collect significant amounts of the slick precipitation, making travel difficult and dangerous.

Sheriff James Williams said that although the roads were in bad shape there were no serious accidents reported and only a few minor domestic calls.

"The only real problem we had was people calling the 911 center for road closure information. It got so bad that I had to call the radio station (WKSK 580 AM) and have them tell people that we would not release any road information to people calling 911 asking for it," Williams said.

Williams wants residents to remember that calling 911 for non-emergencies ties up phone lines needed to receive emergency calls, which could be life-threatening for someone who needs immediate assistance.?

"If somebody needs to call us and it isn't an emergency they can call (336) 846-5600 and we will be happy to help them."

Power outages were also a concern as the snow piled up and temperatures began to drop, but Blue Ridge Electric Director of Public Relations Renee Whitener said that outages were few and far between and that the corporation was pleased with the outcome.

"We were all pleasantly surprised, given the size of this event and what has taken place to the west of us. We are extremely pleased with the way the system stood up," said Whitener.?

"We did have a few outages in Ashe with a total of 30 people, in the area of Old Camp Road, reported without power at some time or another between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m."

Otherwise, no major outages were reported across the county and with things in hand, BRC was able to send crewmembers to assist sister utility French Broad Electric Membership Corporation in Haywood County with more than 8,000 outages they were suffering.

Whitener said with more winter weather expected over the Christmas holiday, BRC wants its members to know they will be standing by to help should they be needed.

To report an outage call BRC at (800) 448-2383.

Phil Hyfell, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Services' Blacksburg, Va. station said, "Across Ashe County we saw significant amounts of snow fall from a foot to 17 inches there in Warrensville.

"As far as snow events go, this one was bigger than normal. The reason I would say that is that the snowfall we saw before the official beginning of winter in some locations was historic. Just north of Ashe County in Roanoke, Va., the 17.8 inches that fell there was the most snow that has fallen in a 24-hour period in the month of December since records began to be kept. For most places across the High Country this was the most snowfall at one time since 1996," Hyfell said.

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