Local

The polar vortex will ice the Midwest. But this NC peak knows cold too.

Image from North Carolina State Parks website.

Brisk weather is headed to Charlotte, but be glad you’re not cowering from the polar vortex in the Midwest this week. Or atop Mount Mitchell, North Carolina’s own little slice of Canada.

As the highest peak in the eastern U.S., Mitchell claims all sorts of cold-weather records — including the lowest temperature ever recorded in the state, 34 degrees below zero, set on Jan. 21, 1985.

That record offers perspective to the 22-degree low Charlotte’s expected to get Tuesday night. And to the minus-10 degrees that’s expected to be the high Wednesday in Chicago.

It was 22 and snowing at 11 a.m. Tuesday on Mount Mitchell, where the weather station is parked at 6,240 feet above sea level. That’s more than 400 feet below the mountain’s summit.

The mountain was the scene of North Carolina’s deepest one-day snowfall (36 inches in 1993) and its second-heaviest snow storm (50 inches over three days, also in 1993), the N.C. Climate Office reports.

The Mitchell weather station’s 43.8-degree annual average temperature is exactly 20 degrees colder than the warmest station in the state, Willard in coastal Pender County. It’s also colder than the average in Buffalo, N.Y., according to the state Climate Office.

“The climate of the Black Mountains (which include Mount Mitchell) is more like that of Canada than North Carolina,” says the state website for Mount Mitchell State Park. “Extremely cold temperatures during the Pleistocene Era allowed the plants and animals of more northern latitudes to extend their ranges to the south, but as warmer climates returned, these cold-adapted species became restricted to the highest peaks. Therefore, many of the plants and animals of Mount Mitchell are much like those native to more northern alpine environments.”

  Comments