Snowfall one-third of average
When the groundhog saw his shadow Thursday, he promised six
more weeks of winter.
For some High Country residents, the response was, “What winter?”
This season has yielded about a third the typical amount of snow and sleet and has offered several months of above-average temperatures, according to meteorologist Dennis Sleighter of the National Weather Service.
From Nov. 1, 2011, through Jan. 31, 2012, the Boone area has recorded only 6.4 inches of snow/sleet, he said.
“What is normal from November through January is 17.8 inches,” Sleighter said.
The average temperature in November was very close to typical levels, while December and January have been above average.
The normal average temperature is 31.4 degrees in December and 31.2 degrees in January, but this season was 37.7 degrees in December and 34.5 degrees in January, Sleighter said.
“General thinking is this season has been dominated by a La Niña weather pattern, and that generally results in temperatures at or above normal for this part of the country,” Sleighter said.
Because the National Weather Service does not have a climate station in the North Carolina mountains, its data comes from a small group of cooperative observers, he said.
At Beech Mountain, known for its winter extremes, the snowfall total has been far higher than Boone but still way below its norm.
Bernie Knepka, business manager of Fred’s General Mercantile, said about 31 inches of snow has fallen this year. At the start of February 2011, the store already had received about 112 inches, he said.
The lack of natural snow has been tough for tourism, and Knepka guessed that the store has seen about 20 percent fewer visitors this season.
Despite the slim chances of natural snow, the ski resorts have been able to flex their technological muscles in producing heaps of man-made snow.
Looking forward, Sleighter said the 30-day outlook is calling for above-normal temperatures and precipitation.
“That might mean more moisture, more precipitation, but with above-normal temperatures, it may mean more rain than snow,” he said.
Still, he and locals alike know there’s still a chance of major unexpected snow in February, March and beyond.