We Talk the Anniversary of the Storm of the Century today!
One thing before we move forward – MAN OUR TRAFFIC HAS NOSE DIVED! Ma Nature saw fit to flip a switch and winter-like weather literally just STOPPED around March 6th and simply has no signs of returning. Early in the month we were sailing along with lots of snow, lots of snow base and plenty of cold temps and then – BOOM – it was gone! This has been a season of "I don’t think I’ve ever seen…" kind of comments. However, I don’t remember a previous season (in my 20 seasons here) when winter just stopped. After a rather consistently cold January and February – and early March – we saw March 1-6th temps that were in the teens and 20s. We even had a MINUS 2° low on March 3rd. Since then the lowest temp has been 31.5° on March 6th here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Temps further north have been slightly colder but nothing to write home about.
We’ve also seen high temps consistently in the 60s and 70s – with a 72.8° reading in Banner Elk on March 7th. As we reported earlier – we’re not seeing any return to winter in the long range forecast – AND THOSE VARIABLES have obviously caused a NOSE DIVE in our website traffic that obviously reflects the nosedive of traffic at the ski resorts. It is Sunday morning at 11:23am and we just did a quick glance around all of the live webcams and we only saw a handful of skiers and riders on the camera views at App, Cat, Beech, Sugar and Snowshoe. We watched the live view cam at the base of Sugar for five minutes before finally seeing someone come to the base. One lone snowboarder came down in five minutes.
Laura Parquette of Snowshoe Mountain mentioned the other day about how their website traffic had dipped severely as well. For example, Snowshoe’s web traffic peaked in January with 130,000 people visiting the website during the month. They were down to 62,908 visitors in February and have seen a distinct drop since March 5th. Ditto for Sugar’s website which saw a peak of 73,000 visitors in January. They dipped to 39,293 visitors in January and they too have seen a huge drop since March 5th. Ski Beech’s web traffic saw a peak of 59,000 visitors in January, but dipped to 26,308 in February and a nosedive since March 5th.
Surprisingly Wintergreen Resort’s website had the most visitation in February with 74,155 visitors after a peak of nearly 110,000 visitors in January. Again, though, Wintergreen’s traffic has severely dipped since March 5th.
You guys seeing a trend here? Yep…only the diehards are sticking around. Our web presence is a little more complicated than the individual resort websites because we have a network of four ski websites, a webcam site and weather portal. The combined presence saw a peak of 330,000 visitors in January. That dipped to 280,000 in February and as of yesterday we only had a total of 58,918 visitors with almost half of you guys looking at the webcams and not even paying attention to the ski websites!
Saturday saw the lowest number of people visiting SkiNorthCarolina.com, SkiSoutheast.com and our sister ski sites. Literally only 12,006 visitors hit the ski content yesterday! Again, we’ve simply never seen this kind of quick drop off in traffic. From all indications, we can almost say that other than the closing days of activities that many ski areas are committed to hosting – you can stick a fork in this ski season – it’s done. It will be very interesting to see if the closing weekends of activities are as well attended as in the past. It has been a TOP THREE TO FIVE SKI SEASON for all of the ski resorts, but it has indeed been a crazy ending with winter simply disappearing. We think that old Punxatawney Phil missed his forecast this season. Take a look at the February 2nd forecast and had he opted for the "only six more weeks of winter" forecast, he’d have nailed it.
Editor’s Note: The figures reflected above used Google Analytics, Compete Analytics, Alexa and Urchin stats to provide content. Some hosts might argue that their stats are substantially higher than those we are reflecting. For example, our own Urchin stats reflects visitation during February of 1.5 million. However, a large portion of our traffic (and those of the individual ski areas) are repeat visitors looking at the sites perhaps as often as 5-7 times a week. There are also international influences and bots, spiders and agents as well as pingbacks, RSS update traffic and more that inaccurately reflect traffic.
WINTER DIDN’T END SO QUICKLY BACK IN 1993!
Here we are on the 16th anniversary of "The Storm of the Century" or the Blizzard of ’93 for those of us who experienced it. Sixteen years ago this weekend those of us living in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic saw something that most native southerners had not seen before – FEET OF SNOW dumped on us from one massive snowstorm.
The Storm of the Century, also known as "The Blizzard of 1993" was without question the strongest storm to ever strike the Eastern United States. And it brought so much more than just blizzard conditions. Eric Thomas of WBTV in Charlotte pointed out, "…this may not be just the storm of the century…but the strongest storm in the history of mankind."
<Scenes like this one sent by Dan Merrier from Linville, NC were numerous!
Mountain Washington in New Hampshire recorded a wind gust of 144mph, and in North Carolina – Flattop Mountain recorded a gust at 101mph. I remember that every major airport on the East Coast was shut down at some point during the storm, which is the first time it had ever happened. The BIG STORY for those of us who love snow was that this storm produced some astonishing snow totals. I was living up on Devils Lake Drive on Seven Devils at the time and I remember "Chief" who lived just down the road from me – snow plowing every few hours and he could not keep up with plowing our road! We accurately measured 44" of snow in my front yard and there were snow drifts caused by the winds that were over ten feet deep.
Ski Beech recorded 48" of snow and I remember walls of snow more than a week later that were higher than nine feet tall all along Beech Mountain Parkway.
Here are some additional snowtotals officially measured:
Mount LeConte (above Ober Gatlinburg) – 56"
Mount Mitchell, NC – 50" with 14 foot snow drifts!
Cataloochee Ski Area – 50"
Snowshoe Mountain – 44"
Bear in mind that 17" fell as far south as Birmingham, Alabama! … and Chatanooga, Tennessee saw 20" of snow. Even portions of the Florida Panhandle recorded a few inches of snow, which just shows how magnificent this storm system was as it passed across the Eastern United States.
When the computer models first detected the storm five days in advance, it was dismissed as an error in the modeling. That Friday evening I was headed down to South Carolina to pick up my daughter and remember the local weather stations forecasting 3-4" of snow. Upon my return around 8pm that evening we’d already had 6-7" of snow and they were then reporting that we’d see another 3-4" of snow.
Evidently it was around that time that the models all started to agree and meteorologists began to understand what a monster they had in front of them. Hurricane-like winds and damage occured in Florida and that was just the beginning. When it was all said and done there were numerous other names for this storm:
The Storm of the Century
the White Hurricane
the (Great) Blizzard of 1993
The White Death
No matter the name – it was impressive!
The Blizzard was a large cyclonic storm that occurred on March 12–March 15, 1993, on the East Coast of North America. It was unique for its intensity, massive size and wide-reaching effect. At its height the storm stretched from Canada to Central America, but its main impact was on the Eastern United States.
Temperatures in the days prior to the storm were typical for early March. Although large fluctuations in temperature are not unusual in the deep south, many residents doubted that freezing temperatures could return so rapidly; nor that snow was likely due to the rarity of significant snowfall later than February.
Many local TV news stations were reluctant to even broadcast the forecast models, due to the extreme numbers being predicted by the computers, but the models turned out to be right.
During Friday March 12, temperatures over much of the eastern United States began to fall quickly. The area of low pressure rapidly intensified during the day on Friday and moved into northwest Florida by early Saturday morning. As this happened snow began to spread over the eastern United States, and a large squall line moved from over the Gulf of Mexico into Florida and Cuba. The low tracked up the east coast during the day on Saturday and into Canada by early Monday morning.
This storm complex was massive, affecting at least 26 U.S. states and much of eastern Canada. Bringing cold air along with heavy precipitation and hurricane force winds, it caused a blizzard over much of the area it affected. Whiteouts were the norm for those three days and I remember driving down from Seven Devils in a line of cars while two people walked in front of the vehicles with a pole – stabbing in front of him to make sure that we were on the road.
While we saw snowdrifts that were deep enough to lose cars in, some reported snowdrifts as high as 35 feet! My wife’s family was visiting that weekend and we had a small Suzuki jeep, a low profile Mustang and their large custom van in the driveaway. We could not see my Mustang and the van was nearly buried in the storm.
Even though the storm was forecast to strike the snow-prone Appalachian Mountains, hundreds of people were caught off guard and had to be rescued from the Appalachian Trail or visiting cabins and lodges. I remember people walking down Devils Lake Drive from the cabins above. They had no food and no way to get it. Neighbors were emptying their cabinets to aid those caught unprepared.
We had a curfew imposed by local law enforcement and even in Boone, North Carolina — in a high-elevation area accustomed to heavy snowfalls — people were nonetheless caught off guard by 24 hours of below zero temperatures along with storm winds, which (according to NCDC storm summaries) gusted as high as 110 miles per hour. Electricity was not restored to many isolated rural areas for a week or more, with power cuts occurring all over the east.
Nearly 60,000 lightning strikes were recorded as the storm swept over the country, for a total of seventy-two hours, and many may remember their local news organizations touting the term "thundersnow."
Overall, the Blizzard of 1993 caused a total of $6.6 billion of damage.
Might we ever see another storm of this magnitude in our lifetimes? Probably not. However, it lives on in our memories for those of us who lived through it.
If you have a story you’d like to share about the Blizzard of 1993, feel free to drop us an email!
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