Wash Post: West Virginia & Maryland high country buried by 18+ inches of April snow

Written by on April 14, 2016 in Spring 2016, United States of America with 0 Comments

Within a 3-day stretch last weekend, over 18 inches of snow fell in the mountains of West Virginia and western Maryland. Cold, clear nights followed allowing the thermometer to dip to 1F within the Canaan Valley region, rare for April! Some local, non official thermometers reported temperatures as low as -8F.

Credit: The Allegheny Mountain Region

Credit: The Allegheny Mountain Region

Article from Capital Weather Gang

April 11

While the last gasp of winter was dusting the immediate D.C. area, more than a foot and a half of the white stuff fell around the Canaan Valley region of West Virginia.

Credit: midatlanticaerial ‏@midatlaerial

Credit: midatlanticaerial ‏@midatlaerial

On Canaan Mountain (elevation 3,715 feet), 18.8 inches fell from April 7 to 9.

Only 125 miles as the crow flies from the White House, the area is notorious for being a bull’s eye for snowfall. According to Robert Leffler, a retired National Weather Service climatologist, this was a big storm for April, but it was not the snowiest. In 1928, a late-April storm blanketed the area with up to 30 inches. And more recently a three day storm between April 2 and 4, 2004, dropped 21 inches.

The spring storm affected most of the central Appalachians and extended into North Carolina. Oakland, in Western Maryland, near the Wisp ski resort picked up 9.5 inches. Beech Mountain, N.C., reported 2 inches and Mount Mitchell 0.5 inches.

Temperatures were also extremely low.
Credit: midatlanticaerial ‏@midatlaerial

Credit: midatlanticaerial ‏@midatlaerial

“The official National Weather Service Canaan Valley weather station hit a low temperature Sunday morning of +1 F, just shy of the 72-year record low April temperature of -2 F (April 10, 1985),” Leffler said.

Canaan Valley and the surrounding mountains and plateaus, particularly the Dolly Sods area just to the east and abutting the Allegheny Front, receives some of the highest annual snow amounts south of New England. With altitudes exceeding 4,000 feet and thousands of square miles over 3,000 feet, the climate is more akin to southern Canada’s. Large spruce-fir forests carpet the rolling hills, and even stands of quaking aspen, rare this far south on the East Coast, dot the Dolly Sods landscape.

The heavy annual snow is a result of typical mid-latitude snow storms but a significant portion is supplied by lake effect. Moist air is transported from the Great Lakes and squeezed out of the atmosphere as it is forced to rise over the upland region.

The cherry blossoms have come and gone around the Tidal Basin, but Leffler reminds folks that Canaan Valley has about four more weeks of snow potential. After this last storm, snowfall-to-date sits at 128 inches, so the average of 130-150 inches per year is still within reach.

(Jason Samenow contributed to this post.)
John Hopewell has worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Mount Washington Observatory, “home of the world’s worst weather.” He received a B.S. in physical geography from Montana State University and a M.A. with a focus on environment and development from the University of Amsterdam.

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