From the Institute for Climate Education at A-B Tech: Western North Carolina can seem like a land divided at times. The complex terrain of this region has a significant impact on the climate and the type of weather that we experience at any given location. The higher elevations, like the mountains along the North Carolina/Tennessee state line pictured below, experienced significant snow though out the multiday event, while many folks in the valley were left with just a few flurries.
The snowfall totals of the mountains seen here were generally close to 6 inches over the four-day period.
The map below shows where the snow fell in our region starting early Thursday morning (Jan 31).
Locations in white generally saw light accumulations — up to as much as 2 inches. The areas in light blue reported more than 2” of snow. And, you can easily spot the bullseye of the snow that fell on Mount Mitchell, northeast of Asheville, where 12” of snow was reported. Significant snow was also reported in the mountains of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
What causes these significant differences over such a relatively short distance? To put it simply: Blame the mountains. Each storm is different, but in general: Air is lifted as it comes into contact with the mountains and as the air is forced to rise, it cools, producing precipitation.
Another key factor that determines where the heavy snow falls — wind direction. When the winds are from the northwest, the counties along the NC / TN state line see the highest totals. A relatively small shift in the wind direction can mean a big shift in where the heavy snow falls.