(WGHP) – While this weekend’s cold front brought the fall weather to the Piedmont Triad, the North Carolina mountains skipped fall and went straight to winter with their first snow of the season.
While the Triad had morning temperatures in the 40s Monday morning, the mountains, especially the higher elevations, woke up to temperatures in the 20s and low 30s!
The below-freezing temperatures mixed with lingering moisture from this weekend’s low-pressure system sparked snow and sleet showers, leaving light accumulations to occur mainly above 5,000 feet.
Those above the 5,000-foot elevation mark have already picked up at least a dusting with some already seeing over an inch of snow.
Around 2 a.m. Monday, snow was falling at Roy Taylor Forest Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which has an elevation of about 5,580 feet.
As of noon, the snow was still falling at Waterrock Knob which has an elevation of 6,292 feet.
Half an inch of snow has already been recorded at Black Balsam Knob in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Just 14 miles northeast of Asheville n Buncombe County, the Great Craggy Mountains also woke up to a dusting of snow.
Mt. LeConte Lodge in Tennessee reported snow began falling around dinnertime Sunday and has since continued off and on. The Lodge reports over 3 inches of snow on the ground as of early afternoon Monday.
Since the mountains are about to reach peak fall foliage season, some are referring to this snow event as “snowliage” because it’s almost as if the higher elevations are in two seasons right now with a dusting of snow over the fall foliage.
Why did the higher elevations see snow in mid-October? Well, it has to do with the cold front we saw this weekend and the direction of the winds creating the “perfect storm” for a post-frontal northwest flow snow event.
What is post-frontal northwest flow snow?
According to the Greenville-Spartanburg National Weather Service, “a northwest flow snow event develops following the passage of cold fronts when a shallow, moist layer of air covers the Tennessee and Ohio river valleys.”
This weekend, the Carolinas had a cold front move through, which is the “post-frontal” part of the name. This means a cold front brought cooler temperatures for us to end the weekend and kick off the work week.
The winds behind a cold front typically come from a northwesterly direction and with the positioning of an upper-level low-pressure system over the northeastern United States, the northwest winds are being reinforced even into the upper-levels of the atmosphere.
When the winds blow from the northwest towards the Tennessee and North Carolina mountains, the west-facing slopes typically see snow showers.
This is because the air is sufficiently cold behind the front and as the winds blow in from the northwest, they travel up the west-facing slopes of the mountains, also known as “upslope”.
This rising motion mixed with the cold air and moisture produces snow flurries and snow showers.
Many northwest flow snow events produce only trace amounts of snow or a dusting, however, occasionally heavy snow can occur.
According to FOX8’s Chief Meteorologist Van Denton, this snowfall is right on time for the highest elevations in the mountains. He states that elevations above 5,000 feet usually have first-season snow reports by mid-October.