Low temperatures dipped below freezing in the Great Smoky Mountains Monday morning. They allowed a light covering of early snow Monday at Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the park at more than 6,000 feet.
"I'm just telling myself it's not cold, it's not cold, and I'm going to stand out here til I can't stand it anymore. Then I'm going to go get in the car and turn the heat on," said Sharon Hirschfield.
Hirschfield visited Clingmans Dome from her home in Gatlinburg. She said she heard it might be snowing and didn't want to miss seeing an early sign of winter.
Snow fell hard enough in the parking lot at Clingmans Dome to force some visitors to bundle up with the clothing they had with them. Some children gathered snow in a grassy area and made three little snowmen. Snow stuck to trees, but melted once it hit concrete.
"I absolutely love it. It's fabulous. It really beats the heat of summer," said Hirschfield.
East Tennessee has seen a wave of wacky weather between April and early October. The high in April, 2010 was 59 degrees, followed a few days later by a record of 90 degrees. That was the first 90 degree day in a 76-day string. The extreme heat ended September 23, 2010. Now, a little more than a week later those high temperatures have dropped 40 degrees to the low 50's.
The cold snap is being felt especially in higher elevations, such as the Smokies. Park visitors who showed up to Clingmans Dome Monday evening expecting to look at changing trees instead watched snow fall.
"We came to see some fall colors, but this is even more interesting," said Jeralin Molinaro, a visitor from New Jersey.
Molinaro wore a raincoat, and shorts as she walked up to the observation deck at Clingmans Dome. She said she was cold, but thought the trip to the top would be worth it.
Other park visitors didn't want to risk driving up the road to Clingmans dome, even though snow wasn't sticking to it. Joan McLaughlin and her family, visiting from Florida, stopped at Newfound Gap, about 1200 feet lower in elevation than Clingmans Dome. Temperatures there were a bit warmer, and there was no snow on the ground. However, McLaughlin said it felt like winter set in early: "I'm used to 90 degrees. This is freezing."