Rare snow storm brings 6 inches or
Hatteras and Ocracoke…WITH SLIDE SHOW
By IRENE NOLAN
What one television weatherman called “an overachieving low,” brought
heavy snow and blizzard-like conditions to Hatteras and Ocracoke
islands on Saturday, Jan. 22.
The rare heavy snow storm surprised not only islanders but also weather
forecasters at The National Weather Service office in Newport, N.C.
“We were not expecting this much,” said forecaster Jeremy Schulz by
There was no snow in the forecast until about Friday afternoon when the
Weather Service issued a snow advisory for the area, including the
southern Outer Banks. Still, the forecast was for 1 to 2
That was still the forecast when the snow started falling about 10
o’clock on Saturday morning.
The snow got heavier as the day went on and the north/northeast winds
picked up – gusting up to 40 mph at times. In the early
afternoon, the Weather Service changed the winter weather advisory to a
winter storm warning.
The heavy snow and gusty winds caused white-out conditions by late
afternoon on Saturday.
The snow tapered off and ended about 10 p.m.
According to the Weather Service, the total in Frisco at Billy Mitchell
Airport and at Rodanthe and Ocracoke was 6 inches.
As usual with snow on the Outer Banks, the total is difficult to
measure because the white stuff here is usually accompanied by gusty
winds, so it piles up in high drifts in some exposed areas and leaves
other areas with little or no accumulation.
Folks who were out and about on Hatteras early this morning said the
heaviest snow was quite obviously in northern Frisco and
There, the snowfall in more sheltered areas in the woods was estimated
at 8 inches.
In any event, it was a rare deviation from most coastal storms that
bring snow to the north and west of the islands, but are often rain or
just snow showers here.
This time, there was little snow north of Oregon Inlet – Manteo had
just a trace – and on the mainland, where most of the snow fell near
the Pamlico Sound.
Schulz said the heavy snow bands set up in and along the Pamlico Sound,
bringing the highest totals to the barrier islands and the eastern
parts of the mainland from Carteret County up through Havelock and to
Rodanthe. West of those areas had a trace or only a few
The culprit -- if you want to call it that -- was a coastal low just
off North Carolina, Schulz said. Forecasters knew there was
enough cold air in place for snow along the southern Outer Banks but
did not foresee the amount of moisture that would be pulled into the
“One of the problems forecasting winter,” Schulz said, is that snowfall
“depends on where the heavy bands set up.”
As the day went on, he said, it became apparent that those heavy bands
were right over and along the sound.
If the low pressure had been 30 or 40 more miles out to sea, he said,
the islands would have seen little snow.
Photos of the accumulating snow and white-out conditions began hitting
Facebook by the afternoon, and by dark, dozens and dozens of pictures
had been posted.
This morning most church services on the islands were cancelled and
almost everyone headed outdoors to enjoy the unusual snow event.
Snow flurries and snow showers are fairly common here in the winter,
and sometimes, a light dusting covers the ground. Several
this year, areas north of Oregon Inlet got several inches, while we on
the southern islands got nothing.
The last big snow storm here was on Jan. 23, 2003 – eight years ago
today – when 10 inches to a foot fell on Hatteras and Ocracoke with
some drifts of 3 to 4 feet.
The all-time record snowfall on the islands was Dec. 23-24, 1989, with
13.3 inches at Cape Hatteras.
This morning, kids -- big and small -- were out sliding around, having
snowball fights, and especially making snowmen of all
descriptions. Some of the younger kids and dogs had never
measurable snowfall before. Most were having a great time.
A popular attraction today was the beach – coated in white with drifts
along the dunes. Now that is a sight you don’t see too often.
By afternoon, Highway 12 was mostly clear of snow, while the back roads
and side streets remained snow- and ice-covered.
At dark, the slush was beginning to freeze again, and the Weather
Service was warning of dangerous driving conditions overnight.
Tomorrow was a scheduled holiday for Hatteras students, so they won’t
get a day out of school. However, county garbage pick-up on
island has been cancelled for Monday because of the condition of the
side roads. Normal pick-up is expected to resume on Tuesday.
Another coastal low is forecast for Tuesday into Wednesday, Schulz
said, but – at least at this point – precipitation should be all rain
on Hatteras and Ocracoke.
to see a
slide show of photos sent to us by readers and posted on Facebook
want to thank these islanders for sharing their photos: Lynne
Foster, Bertie Dixon III, Jennie Veal, Arnold Head, Cindy O'Neal, Diane
Brown, Donna Tokazowski, Liz Fox, Gary Owens, Jennifer Goodman, John
Head, Joy Crist, Karen Miller, Kim Mosher, Kristin Gray, Licia
Caldwell, Margie Easley, Mary Styron, Melodi Schwartz, Ruth Webb, and