Brace yourself for winter: 5-degree windchill recorded on Mount Mitchell in NC

Frost formed at Craggy Gardens as temperatures hit 22 degrees on Mount Mitchell Thursday, with a windchill of 5 degrees.
Frost formed at Craggy Gardens as temperatures hit 22 degrees on Mount Mitchell Thursday, with a windchill of 5 degrees.

Too cold too fast?

Temperatures in North Carolina fell from a high of 99 degrees two weeks ago to lows in the 40s this week — except atop Mount Mitchell State Park.

It is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River and known for having some of the craziest weather in the Appalachian Mountains.

Temperatures have already fallen below freezing on the mountain this week.

The low hit 22 degrees there Thursday, with a windchill of 4 degrees. Well, technically it was 4.9 degrees, according to NCHighPeaks.org.

On Friday, it was 25 degrees with an 11-degree windchill and winds of 32 mph.

Blue Ridge Parkway officials highlighted the surprising weather shift in a Facebook post that noted the first frost of the season appeared Thursday on a stretch of parkway near Mount Mitchell.

“To say it was a bit brisk at Craggy Gardens this morning is putting it lightly!” the National Park Service posted.

“Temperatures at nearby Mt. Mitchell clocked in this morning around 22 degrees. Remember, when headed into the high elevations, be prepared for much cooler temperatures and bring layers to stay comfortable.”

Commenters on the post confirmed the strange weather shift with first-person observations.

“Ate a picnic lunch at Craggy Gardens last weekend in shorts and a t-shirt!” Stephen Perry Williams wrote.

“Rode my bicycle up to that spot and on to Mount Mitchell in temperatures that went from sweating at the visitor center to freezing at the top,” wrote Jim Wadleigh. “The ride down was an ordeal. Be prepared.”

Mount Mitchell’s peak is 6,684 feet, making it the site of extreme weather and a barometer for what lies ahead in coming weeks.

Highs in the North Carolina mountains will fall into the 60s early next week, making for increasingly frigid lows, according to the National Weather Service.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.