“Up in the Smokies, they’re just getting hammered,” said Andrew Pritchett, National Weather Service spokesperson on Monday.
Hammered, indeed. According to The Knoxville News, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park received 32 inches of snow this week, which is a new record for the month of October. The previous record? SIX inches! That was set in 2010.
The staff members of the LeConte Lodge, at the top of Mount LeConte, have been blogging throughout the experience:
“Well, we are hanging in there. It was a long night last night, for us and the hikers who came up. We had ten more guests show up between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. There were a few experienced hikers who love hiking in winter conditions. They said it was extremely difficult for them. It took some of them 10 hours to hike up Rainbow Falls trail. There are a lot of trees down. The hikers were telling stories of crawling under some of those blow downs. We currently have 34″ of snow. The drifts are up to the roof on the dining hall.”
The snow was a result of Superstorm Sandy, according to the National Weather Service. Obviously, this much snow in October is very unusual. But, regardless, winter weather is coming. Make sure you’re prepared, if you’re traveling to the Smokies this winter.
7 ways to be prepared for snow on your trip to the Smokies:
- Drive a 4-Wheel Drive vehicle, if possible. Some cabins will be out-of-reach when it snows, for cars that aren’t 4-Wheel Drive. Make sure you think ahead. If you are planning a trip during a heavy snowfall, consider renting a 4-Wheel Drive vehicle. Rentals are available in Gatlinburg at the Southland Car and Jeep. When in doubt, call your cabin company. They will help you decide if you need 4-Wheel drive to get to your cabin.
- Bring more food than you need. Just in case. But also because people that have been out skiing or doing other fun winter activities are hungrier than you ever expect! To be on the safe side, pack some extra bottled water and several cans of goods that you don’t plan to use. Sometimes, it takes a few days for mountain roads to get plowed.
- Adjust your expectations. Many people come to the mountains expecting hours of hikes or at least drives through the beautiful, snow-covered Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, with as much snow as the Smokies usually get, several (and at times most) of the interior roads will be closed on and off. Check here for up-to-date road closures in the Smokies. As I write this, Clingmans Dome Road and Old NC-284 between Big Creek and Cataloochee are closed due to snow and ice. Always check for current conditions before venturing into the park.
- Carefully Plan Your Arrival Time. Many weekend vacationers will leave after work and head to the Smokies, arriving at their cabin late at night. Use extreme caution if you decide to do this on a snowy night. You may want to plan to arrive during daylight instead. Or rent a local hotel for the first night, and head to the cabin in the morning.
- Prepare your vehicle. Make sure your brakes and windshield wipers are in tip-top shape before leaving home. Check tires for proper pressure and make sure that tread is in good condition. If possible, carry chains. And make sure you bring the following with you:
- Heavy-duty snow/ice scraper
- Broom for brushing off heavy snowfall
- Shovel to free your car if it gets snowed in
- Sand for traction if your wheels become mired in snow
- Snow boots for all members of the family
- Warm blankets
- Keep your gas tank half full. Though it usually doesn’t get cold enough to freeze your gas, it’s always a good idea to keep plenty of gas in your car in the winter. Plus, you definitely don’t want to run the risk of running out of fuel.
- Pack a variety. The temperatures change quickly in the mountains. And it may be warm and sunny one day, but cold the next. Bring sweatshirts, scarfs, coats, and jackets, so you have the maximum flexibility.
Snow! Yay! Christmas is just around the corner! Now, if only I could talk my husband into putting up the tree…