Original National Weather Service Data Forms submitted by Roy L. Wells, Jr., for the official station of Wise 1 SE located on the campus of University of Virginia’s College At Wise.
The 1976-77 Winter Season
The observation site of Wise 1 SE had a southern exposure at its elevation of 2560 feet above sea level, so it represents the least amount of snow cover days for the middle elevation zone.
The observation time of 5:00 PM, in addition, tends to represent less snow depth than stations where the recorded 24-hour snow depth is during the morning ( i.e., snow depths often decrease during afternoon hours even during some snowstorms unless temps are very cold and snow is falling steadily to heavily ).
The harsh nature of the 1976-77 winter is illustrated by weather records of Elizabeth & Addison Stallard, which show snow cover visible across the head of Powell Valley from December 20, 1976 to March 11, 1977. A continuous stretch of 82 days! Quite impressive for a snow shadowed locale which typically has only a fraction of snow cover days observed across the high country above.
**Northern slope sites, especially in upper elevations, had almost constant snow cover from mid-November into mid-March during the 1976-77 winter.
Although 68″ of snow were measured in Wise during the November-March period of the 1976-77 Winter, total water equivalent precip was much below average with only 10.16″ during these 5 months ( a winter dominated by cold air and mostly low density falls of snow ).
That changed rapidly in early April 1977.
A total of 7.75″ of mostly rain fell in Wise during April 2-5 as part of the Great Flood of April 1977. More precipitation in water equivalent form than measured during the entire November-February period combined.
Rainfall totals of more than 12.00″ were estimated by a follow up study along windward facing mountain slopes, with the High Knob Massif likely having among the most.
*A total of 0.8″ of snow fell at the end of this event in Wise, with 2-3″+ of snow falling in parts of the mountain area at the conclusion of this flood.