Black Mountain snow: Storm blankets Swannanoa Valley with 10 inches
If the gray skies, low clouds and falling temperatures near the end of last week didn’t provide enough indication of what was in store for Dec. 9, weather forecasts certainly did.
Expectations for near-record snowfall throughout the region came with the approach of a winter storm, and while the weather event fell short of initial expectations, its impact on the Swannanoa Valley was substantial.
Before the first flake fell, the annual Black Mountain Christmas Parade, originally scheduled for Dec. 8, was postponed. Bob McMurray, executive director of the Black Mountain-Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce, began monitoring forecasts four days before the annual parade was set to begin.
McMurray announced he’d wait to make a decision on whether or not to move the parade to 2 p.m. Dec. 15. As the week progressed, weather models suggested snow would begin falling early on the day of the parade and McMurray consulted with town officials and decided to push the parade back.
Nancy Brown, owner of Full Moon Farm in Broad River, was pleased with the decision.
“I had already pulled out,” said Brown, whose wolfdog sanctuary has participated in the annual event for the past 12 years. “With the snow in the forecast, we simply had too much to do to get ready.”
Brown, who participated in Holly Jolly, expected to spend Saturday getting ready for snow.
“The hydraulics on our tractor is down and we’re going to have to chain everything up to be able to use the bucket to move snow,” she said. “We have to get anything off of any roofs because the snow can cause them to collapse. We’ve still been cleaning up damage from two recent ice storms.”
After traveling from Charleston, South Carolina, Matt and Suzanne Walker were disappointed the parade had to be canceled. The couple’s Newfoundland dogs, Lionel and Henry, were two of dozens set to march as part of the Southeastern Newfoundland Club.
“This would’ve been our second year,” Suzanne said, as she and Matt walked the dogs along Cherry Street as flurries started falling on Saturday. “We were really looking forward to doing the parade.”
The couple arrived Saturday morning and planned to leave Dec. 10, if the snow allowed.
“We’re just going to make the most out of it, and it’s exciting because this is their first snow,” Suzanne said motioning toward the dogs. “As far as getting out of here and Monday, we’ll have to see about that.”
Snow hits the Valley hard
Snow began to collect on roads throughout the Valley on Saturday evening. By 7 p.m., Broad River Fire & Rescue warned of dangerous conditions.
“We just had our first vehicle go into a ditch at Crooked Creek Road,” the department posted. “Please be advised (the department) will not pull vehicles back into the roadway unless it seriously endangers the public.”
Black Mountain police advised motorists to stay off the roads with a Facebook post around 10 p.m.
"The snow is really coming down. Roadways have quickly become snow covered and extremely slick and dangerous," the post stated. "If at all possible stay at home, however, if you must travel, please slow down and use extreme caution."
By Sunday morning, snow accumulation was approaching 10 inches, and it was “falling faster than we can scrape it,” said Black Mountain public works director Jamey Matthews.
“It’s definitely creating some complications for my crews,” said Matthews from his truck on Laurel Circle Drive around 10 a.m. “The (NCDOT) hasn’t been here to scrape roads yet, our public works crews are scraping whatever roads they’re driving on.”
As heavy snow continued to fall through Sunday, Matthews and his crew cleared the roads continuously.
“When we have a weather event like this, what works best is for people to try to stay off the roads,” he said. “When people try to get out and end up sliding off the road it can really make things tough.”
Residents in Swannanoa reported 17 inches of snow by Sunday evening but forecasts called for snow through Monday morning. On the other side of the valley, Ridgecrest residents saw around 15 inches.
Duke Energy reported nearly 16,000 customers in Buncombe County were experiencing outages as of Dec. 9 and multiple businesses announced they would not open Monday.
Buncombe County Schools were canceled for Dec. 10.