Trail Notes: When the weather decides to not cooperate

Trail Team 11

Tyler and his wife on a hike. (T.Allender/WJHL)

We love getting out on the trail, especially on days that promise to be gorgeous. However, if you’ve hiked areas like Grandfather Mountain, Roan Mountain or Grayson Highlands, you know the weather can change quickly.

I asked Storm Team 11’s Tyler Allender, who is also a fan of hitting the trails, about some things to watch out for when hiking.

Q: When heading out to hike the peaks/balds/Grayson Highlands, what should we note when checking the weather?
TYLER: The weather is usually much colder and windier on the mountain peaks, balds, etc. Always bring a few extra layers even in the summer. Sometimes temperatures can drop a few degrees every 1,000 feet you go up. 

roan mountain carvers gap

Q: When I’m out hiking, what do I need to pay attention to?
TYLER: If you’re out hiking, take note of any precipitation or wind. The timing is important. Does it look like it will rain for an hour or off and on all day? How strong will the winds be? If there are thunderstorms, seek safe shelter as quickly as possible. If you hear thunder, you’re close enough to getting struck. Lightning tends to strike the tallest object and you don’t want to be near trees. Use common sense — if it looks bad, and is getting worse, you should consider seeking shelter as well. It’s usually a given, but stay hydrated. Also, pay attention to where you’re going and use a compass (most phones have these built in) so you know exactly what direction you’re headed.

Q: Big clouds in the distance – do I need to worry?
TYLER: You should always watch for big clouds particularly in the spring and summer. That can be a sign of developing rain or thunderstorms. Most storms move in from the west or from the south. 

Q: Do I need to take forecasted winds into account?
TYLER: Wind is very important in the mountains, especially from October through May. You can get damaging winds in excess of 60 mph in the mountains several times a month. In that case, you need to be vigilant of falling trees, etc. if you’re on the trails. Wind direction also makes a difference when it comes to temperature and rainfall. For example, if the wind is out of the southeast, it typically will be drier and warmer in east Tennessee and even parts of southwest Virginia. Whereas, North Carolina can be 20-25 degrees colder with rain or snow. 

I recently found a neat place to check forecasts of Mountain Peaks from the National Weather Service. Note, it’s experimental, but has good information to consider.

Don’t forget: You can take Storm Team 11 with you anywhere with our app. You can get it on the App Store or Google Play store.

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