Sunday was a LONG day for me. After doing my nightly forecast it was up early to meet my buddy Roddy Addington at the City of Norton Water Plant for a run at the summit.
I measured 4″ to 6″ of snow depth at the Norton Water Plant, with widespread snow across all of the northern slopes. Some patches of packed ice did not bode well for me and Rod. I brought chains.
As it turned out, even with winds that sounded like a JET, the trip upward was pretty good with only a few patches of ice and packed snow. No chains needed for this stretch.
Snow depths of 6″ to 10″ were widespread, with 8″ being the mean I obtained by doing many measurements. Snow drifts of 1-2+ feet remained in many places along the high ridges, with local depths upwards of 3 feet.
Depths by today had diminished greatly, of course, and were only 1/3 to 1/2 what they were back on January 23.
The high country had a solid snow cover, even though air temperatures had been well above the freezing point for more than 30 consecutive hours.
*Taking photographs was made more difficult by ROARING SW winds that would blow your tripod and camera over without holding to them ( at least mine ). Temperatures in the lower 40s, combined with 30-50 mph gusts, to push wind chills into the 20s at times. Enough to make multiple layers of cloths, gloves, and anything else one could wear feel pretty good.
Observe the frozen, ice covered surface of High Knob Lake in the high valley near lower left center of photograph. All lakes amid the massif are frozen ( but ice was bobbing up and down in the ROARING SW winds at the Upper Norton Reservoir ).
The cloud line visible in my photograph above showed up well on NASA visible imagery, as did nice orographic wave clouds which were visible on satellite images and from the Lookout Tower.
The High Knob Massif covers approximately 182 square miles and nearly all of it ( except for portions of the Powell Valley ) were still covered by snow on this last afternoon of January 2016.
My hands & face were very cold from ROARING SW winds, and from digging out an area in order to take a good, clean sample.
I took several snow cores, both to see how much water was still present and to help better determine how much precip and snow actually fell atop the massif during the snowy period from January 17-27 ( with one rain event ).
Snow Core Data – January 31, 2016
8″ Depth = 5″ Core With Compression Into Tube Water Equivalent was 2.15″
22″ Depth = 15″ Core with Compression Into Tube Water Equivalent was 7.20″
I used an official National Weather Service 8″-diameter inner measuring tube to take the cores. Snow was hard enough to at least partially walk on top of in many places, such that the snow depth compressed in the tube upon working it down through the relatively hard snow. I used a large, flat spade to dig out around where I would take the cores, then worked the flat blade of the spade beneath the snow. This tends to generate a nice core upon working the tube down through the snow to the spade. One can generally obtain nearly all the snow by using this method. I like nice, clean cores and will reject them if they are not ( the lower portion of the snowpack was harder than the top layer ).
The cores ended up being relatively consistent in nature, varying from 0.27″ to 0.33″ of water content per 1″ of uncompressed snow.
Snow depths on January 23 reached a mean of 2 feet or more in the main crest zone of the massif. One rain event during January 26 added to the water content of the snowpack.
*Rime deposition and drop from trees occurred during the January 17-25 period, but was not excessive in nature as observed during past events.
Snowfall amid the main crest zone was enhanced by a TIM Circulation which I first discovered many years ago. In this case, the final result yielded a snow gradient that varied from 2+ feet of total snowfall within the main crest zone to only 3″ of depth ( 4″ or so of snowfall ) around 10 air miles away in portions of Big Stone Gap ( most of the accumulated snow in Big Stone Gap coming via NW-NE flow, with approximately half the snow that fell atop the massif via this northerly upslope flow ).
A drive along Route 238 past High Knob Lake junction got snowpacked and icy, with only an ATV appearing to have broken the snow. Rod and I decided to turn around and head back down State Route 619. This ended up being the right call, as some beautiful photographs were taken upon reaching the Upper Norton Reservoir as sunshine finally returned to aid reflections upon ice!
Beautiful scenes abounded at the Upper Norton Reservoir.
Snow depths in Benges Basin of the Upper Reservoir varied from bare ground on well exposed slopes to a general 3″ to 12″+ on the trail which runs along the northern side of the lake.
A rather amazing day in the High Knob Massif given bare ground and 60+ degree temperatures observed during the weekend amid the Great Valley and the Tri-Cities!