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Sandy leaves record snow and silver lining in Smokies

7:35 PM, Oct 31, 2012   |    comments
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Millions of people in the northeast spent Wednesday salvaging what is left of their homes in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

East Tennessee was spared the brunt of the devastating storm.  The main impact in our region was record-setting snow in the higher elevations.

"What stands out I think is just the amount of snow," said Molly Schroer, spokesperson for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  "At Mount LeConte we measured 32 inches of snow, which is a new October record.  We had 14 inches of snow fall last night.  The average snow accumulation for the entire month of October is usually one inch."

Wednesday the shield of Sandy's cloud cover was gone from the peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains and park visitors got a clear glimpse of the snow-capped summits.  Those spectacular scenes led to a stream of sightseers flooding the overlooks at Newfound Gap.

"We're from Tallahassee, Florida. We came up to see the changing of the leaves and what a surprise this [snow] has been," said park visitor Joanne Pacetti. "Oh my gosh, it is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful."

The strong storm winds sculpted sideways streamers of slush on the trees of Newfound Gap.  Tourists took in the landscapes by carving paths through snow more than two feet deep.

The ability to absorb such breathtaking sights was made possible by the hard work of road crews who spent the day clearing Newfound Gap Road.  Park officials say visitors should use caution along shaded areas and sharp curves.  The slow-melting snow piles can keep those shaded areas wet and icy.

"People should also be prepared for much colder conditions.  It's a little chilly down here at Park Headquarters, but up at Newfound Gap it is absolutely frigid.  You have strong winds and the temperatures can be 20 to 30 degrees colder.  Wear warm jackets and be prepared," said Schroer.

The visitors on Wednesday said the risk of slippery roads and the chilly air was worth the reward of crystal clear snapshots against a deep blue Smoky Mountain sky.

"This is amazing, absolutely amazing. And what a treat, for Halloween," laughed Pacetti.

The GSMNP keeps a constant update of road and facility closures on its website and Smokies Road Conditions Twitter feed.  

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