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The major snowstorm known as the Blizzard of ’93, which crippled Western North Carolina, began on Friday, March 12, 1993. The snowstorm left behind as much as 15 inches in the Sylva area and between two and four feet in some of Jackson County’s outlying areas. Blizzard warnings were issued in WNC for the first time in memory, according to weather forecasters.

By Dave Russell

Preston Jacobsen does not mind being called a “weather weenie.” He wears the moniker like a badge, as most weather enthusiasts do.

That love of weather led him to found and operate Local Yokel weather, connecting a series of weather stations from Haywood County west to Cherokee.

The Jackson County area is well covered, with stations in Dillsboro, Cullowhee, Franklin, Cashiers, Highlands, downtown Sylva and Southwestern Community College.

The downtown Sylva station near the Courthouse is a new addition to Local Yokel.

“A fellow weather weenie in downtown Sylva gave us access to their station,” he said in an email last month.

The station data, found at www.mtnwx.com/downtownsylva, includes temperature; dew point; a “feels like” temperature; wind direction, speed and gust information; rainfall rate for the last hour and totals for the day and week; atmospheric pressure; humidity and the UV index.

His next quest for weather data takes him to Pinnacle Park for the installation of two stations, one at a low elevation and one up high.

Jacobsen has selected a weather station for the sites.

“I’ll hopefully be purchasing a Davis Instruments’ Wireless Vantage Pro2,” he said. “They’re a step above personal weather stations, if you will. The Pro2 tends to have a better handle on wind and they also last a touch longer. In addition, it allows us to kind of play with more remote options, in particular cellular data.”

The Pro2 updates conditions every 2.5 seconds and monitors temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction and rainfall.

“We’ll monitor everything except soil moisture level,” he said. “My personal interest, in terms of Local Yokel Weather, is going to be the rainfall and the wind, especially at the Pinnacle Peak location. The closest weather station to the Plott Balsams is just below Mount Lynn Lowery.”

The data from that station is not as reliable as Jacobsen would like, he said.

“This would be at least the most reliable station specific to the Pinnacle Park area,” he said. 

The unit is solar-powered with battery backup.

The weather station would report its data to a Davis Instruments’ Vantage Connect for Wireless Stations, which at $925 is actually more expensive than the $425 weather station itself.

Its job is to upload data via cellular connectivity, uploading every 5, 15, or 60 minutes depending on annual service plan.

Jacobsen hopes to tap into the data signal the town is currently using for its security cameras, he said. 

“If not, we’re going to go full cellular for both the station at the trailhead and the one at Pinnacle Peak,” he said.

The data would be found on the Local Yokel website, https://www.mtnwx.com.

“We’ll also offer widgets that the town of Sylva or Pinnacle Park Foundation could embed on their webpage,” he said. 

Archived data would be available via request, he said.

The data would inform emergency personnel heading into the park or let hikers know what to expect when they reach the higher elevations in the park.

The information is also for what Jacobsen considers fun.

“Can we show in this one area, the difference in conditions between the elevations and the temperatures?” he said. “It would be kind of neat, especially for someone who is starting out on the trail to be able to say, ‘When I set out on the trail it’s 65 degrees and up at the top it will be 58 degrees.’”

The elevation for the highest station would be in the 4,700 foot range, he said. 

“I just don’t know where along the Pinnacle Peak we’ll place it,” he said. “We haven’t really scouted the area yet.

“I do worry about security issues like vandalism, theft. You wouldn’t believe how many people, when they see a weather station, the first thing that comes to mind is to pour their drink down it to give a crazy rain total on a sunny day.”

Plans are afoot for a hike to locate a good spot that follows the National Weather Service guidelines.

“But this is all for naught if we can’t do the fundraising for it,” he said. “As much as I would like to put these in on my personal dime, I’m hoping for 90 percent funding.”

Jacobsen hopes to begin a fund drive next month. Community funding has helped pay for other stations.

“It fills my heart up,” he said. “I’m not the only weather weenie out there.”