Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
The new Washington
Post Weather website
Jump to CWG's
Latest Full Forecast
Outside now? Radar, temps
and more: Weather Wall
Follow us on Twitter (@capitalweather) and become a fan on Facebook
Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 01/12/2010

Canaan Valley's incredible snow cover

By Jason Samenow

* January thaw coming: Full Forecast | Cold virtual tour *

Deep snow in Davis, Wv. By Jon Robeson.

Since New Year's Eve, despite the persistent cold, the metro region has received a relatively paltry 1-2" of snow. But head due west about 130 miles and the snow has kept coming and coming and coming.

In the little town of Davis, West Virginia's highest incorporated town (at 3200 feet) and the closest town to Canaan Valley, bed and breakfast owner and weather observer Jon Robeson has been tallying the region's snow totals. In an email to me, he boasted: "Gotten about 50 inches of fluffy snow since New Year's Eve. We may make a run at the all-time monthly record for snow of 82.5 inches (January 2003)."

Another photo of deep snow in Davis, Wv. By Jon Robeson

On the Web site for Davis, Wv.'s weather records, observer Dave Lesher meticulously documents the snowfall day-by-day as well as other weather metrics. Here are his reports for the first 11 days of 2010:

Jan 11 - Cloudy all day and not as cold; light snow commenced at 5PM and continued intermittently through the evening.
Jan 10 - Intermittent very light snow overnight, ending by mid morning and quickly become sunny from mid day through the afternoon. A spectacular winter landscape.
Jan 09 - Snow continuing overnight and continuing light and very light all day and evening. Based on review of all Canaan Valley data from 1945 to date, these first nine days of January are the snowiest ever for the past 66 years.
Jan 08 - Steady snow and much colder overnight, diminishing but continuing through the morning despite a partial clearing sky. Clouding over again by mid afternoon with snow intensifying once more and continuing through the evening.
Jan 07 - Light snow ending at daybreak; cloudy and not as cold through the afternoon with a few peeks of sunshine until clouding over and light snow commencing again at nightfall.
Jan 06 - Snow overnight, moderate to heavy at times, diminishing to light by late morning, continuing through the afternoon and evening.
Jan 05 - Steady snow overnight and through the day, often moderate in intensity in the afternoon and evening.
Jan 04 - Light snow and windy continuing overnight with temps holding between +2F and +4F; light snow all day with winds slowly diminishing then snow falling more heavily from late afternoon through the evening.
Jan 03 - Intermittent fine, light snow all day, becoming steady late afternoon and through the evening; continued windy and bitterly cold.
Jan 02 - Windy with light snow, blowing snow, and drifting snow all day; a few periods of dim sunshine in the afternoon. Temps held steady between +3F and +5F through the afternoon until slipping toward zero during the evening.
Jan 01 - Periods of light snow overnight, turning colder and becoming breezy, then a steady light to moderate snow commenced during the morning, continuing all day and evening; falling temps all day.

So why the huge differences between the weather here and weather there?

Many of the mountains in Canaan Valley stand above 3,000 feet and are some of the tallest features between the metro region and the Great Lakes. Therefore, they are the beneficiaries of remnant lake effect snow bands. When these remnant bands hit the mountains, the air is forced up and the moisture is squeezed out over the mountains. So frequently when there is flow from the northwest off the lakes in winter, this region tends to get snow. The elevation also helps to enhance snow from storms and clippers. The "clipper" which produced 1-2" here dropped at least half a foot there.

Blackwater Falls after a snowfall of several inches when I visited early last January.

So if you prefer cold weather to be accompanied by fresh, deep snow rather than parking lot piles of soot-covered icy crud, Canaan Valley would be a great place to visit now. It's not a coincidence this area offers great cross country and downhill skiing. And, having been there a year ago, I can attest Blackwater Falls State Park (where the Blackwater River exits Canaan Valley) is beautiful in the snow.

Traveling conditions around Canaan Valley can be challenging when it snows. Visibility was near zero at times when I drove there last winter, as shown in this picture.

Getting there can be tricky in snowy conditions, so find a driver who has experience driving in snow and/or a four-wheel drive vehicle. Take it easy getting there and you won't be disappointed once you arrive...

Note: A reader, Susan Meyer, astutely points out that the town of Davis is not in Canaan Valley. The text has therefore been edited to indicate that Davis, rather than being in Canaan Valley, is the closest town to Canaan Valley. Susan also noted that the weather in Davis can vary somewhat from the weather in Canaan Valley.

By Jason Samenow  | January 12, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Local Climate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: January thaw on the way
Next: PM Update: Still chilly, but headed warmer


I was up there last weekend and the powdery snow was Rocky Mountain-esque. Save for the ski patrol and the ski school we had the mt to ourselves. Almost heaven...

Posted by: sumplmg | January 12, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

That is certainly impressive. Last night we had zero accumulation :-(

Tried cross country skiing at Whitegrass last year and had a great time. I'd like to buy my own equipment to ski around here.

Posted by: spgass1 | January 12, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

We can thank Canaan Valley and nearby high points for the relative lack of snow here from clipper-type storms.

Further to the south, Knoxville gets more snow than Washington. Down there the Great Smokies squeeze the moisture out of the air. Gatlinburg gets even more snow than Knoxville.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | January 12, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Nice b+w photo!

Posted by: BillWalderman | January 12, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I have a longtime friend who owns a cabin in the area around Davis. We used to go up there on weekends during high school (at Walter Johnson in Bethesda during the late 70s). We would leave Friday evening - it was about a 5 hr trip via Cumberland, MD (where we would always stop for dinner at Roy Rogers) and Keyser, WV - and many times it would be relatively mild and rainy in Bethesda when we left, then we would cross Mt Storm and BAM, nothing but snow. The last couple hours of the trip were almost always treacherous compared to the first few hours. Good skiing during the day at Canaan Valley and then 3.2% WV beer in the evenings. Ah, good times.

Posted by: TerpInTime | January 12, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

went there last year - had great snow. looks like this winter was a little more extreme :)

Posted by: madisondc | January 12, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I went up to Blackwater Falls in Feb. 1972 just after a three-foot snowfall hit the Allegheny Highlands. The falls were frozen over and we had to wade in chest high in spots to get to the falls. In Oakland the snow was level with the parking meters and just outside of Terra Alta, WV, we saw a 30-ft. high snowdrift. Exhausting but exhilerating.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | January 12, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

This just goes to show that while the immediate metro area is not much for snow, the good stuff isn't all that far off. I am thinking my ultimate plan, if I stay in this area long term, may be to try to find a cabin or some such in an upslope area. Ideally the drive would be 2.5hr or less, which makes it tough, but Frostburg, MD may be a good candidate.

Posted by: jahutch | January 12, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2012 The Washington Post Company