Friday, November 02, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Was here and is now gone.

I started this on Tuesday evening, as Hurricane Sandy was moving northward across the eastern third of Pennsylvania. We don’t usually get much noticeable hurricane effects here in upper East Tennessee but this time we did.

Most of the really bad weather seemed to trail up the eastern side of the mountains through the western upland counties of North Carolina (and then into West Virginia.) If you glance at the Tennessee map, North Carolina forms our eastern, most right-hand border. We’re about halfway up that common boundary. Above the the Smokies which are above Knoxville.

Generally, that’s the same route as the AT or the Blue Ridge Parkway but is not necessarily the location of the Blue Ridge Mountains or the “Appalachians.”

The Appalachians are more of connection of smaller groups of mountains rather than on long, distinct ribbon. The idea that there is one single dividing line is a common mistake. It just doesn’t exist that way and such things as state borders don’t help a lot. The Appalachians stretch out from the Kentucky/ Virginia border to beyond the Tennessee/ North Carolina border by many miles. The chain is very wide which made it appear impassable in colonial days until the Cumberland Gap became a more useful way to cross over from our valley country into eastern Kentucky. If you drive from Johnson City through Middlesboro, Kentucky (where Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee all meet) and on to Corbin, Kentucky, at I-65 you would find yourself starting in one long valley, then really twisty mountainous terrain, and then slowly leveling out as you exit coal country.

Here in Johnson City, the terrain might be better described as “ridge and valley” which extends from the mountains (the eastern side of our view) to the Cumberland Plateau just west of Knoxville. This is an extension perhaps of the Shenandoah Valley in southwest Virginia that continues on southwesterly to Chattanooga.

Stormy weather coming out of Georgia seems to trend east up the other side of the mountains. But, storms coming down from the Ohio Valley seem to lift and pass over us. The upshot of all this geography is that western North Carolina gets hit more than east Tennessee and the mileage between the two is nil. Our worst cold has come before Christmas but our worst snow comes as late as Spring Break. Two years ago, several tornado came out of Alabama, up around Knoxville, and then up past our way. That was rare. That was scary.

When Sandy passed north of the Outer Banks, (sort of entering Virginia state waters) we started to get more cloud but the real weather change occurred once Sandy turned left at New Jersey. The storm was large enough to reach from the Jersey shore clear across Virginia to the most northeast three or four counties of Tennessee.

Many years ago, Hurricane Hugo rammed ashore just north of Charleston, S.C., near Hobcaw Barony, and stumbled all the way into our neck of the woods.  Overnight we picked up clouds from the east and a fifteen degree drop in the temperature over Labor Day. And then, it just . . . disappears.

As of Thursday, the storm for our part was long over. The large cold front and low pressure that helped give Sandy so much power lashed us mostly with rain and then with snow in the higher elevations. Probably, if Sandy hadn’t been in the news the past couple of days would have been chalked up to just some rotten Fall weather.