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Wind gusts comparable to a Category 3 hurricane are blowing at Grandfather Mountain

Winds of 121.3 mph were reported atop Grandfather Mountain on Wednesday morning, setting a record. JEFF WILLHELM/Charlotte Observer
Winds of 121.3 mph were reported atop Grandfather Mountain on Wednesday morning, setting a record. JEFF WILLHELM/Charlotte Observer Staff Photographer

Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina set an all-time wind gust record early Wednesday, and the strength was comparable to a Category 3 hurricane.

Wind gusts at the park have steadily risen in the past 24 hours, from 34 mph Tuesday morning to a record 121.3 mph early Wednesday, said a post on the Grandfather Mountain Facebook page.

A Category 3 hurricane has winds of 111-129 mph, which can cause “major damage” to even well-built homes, says the National Hurricane Center.

“A gust of 121.3 mph around 4 a.m. exceeding the park’s previous record of 120.7 mph, recorded Dec. 21, 2012,” said the Facebook post.

“Sustained wind speeds reached 86.3 mph during that same 4 a.m. window on Feb. 13, and gusts continued to exceed 100 mph throughout the morning.”

Jesse Pope, president and executive director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, released a statement saying the park sustained no damage from the gusts.

Grandfather Mountain has an automated weather station in partnership with the N.C. Climate Office, says the park’s web site.

The record was set on a day when the National Weather Service has issued both a High Wind Warning and a High Wind Advisory for western parts of North Carolina.

The 65 mph maximum for the state was badly underestimated in the case of Grandfather Mountain.

It was predicted “potentially damaging” gusts would top out at a 65 mph in places like Avery, Yancey and Mitchell counties. The foothills will see gusts in the upper 50s, said NWS forecasters.

In the Charlotte region, 29 mph gusts were expected midday, said the National Weather Service.

Eight inches of snow provided a playground for otters and for Logan and Trinity, two Western cougars. All live in the animal habitats at Grandfather Mountain in Linville, NC. www.grandfather.com

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.


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