27th Anniversary of Heavy, Wet April 1987 Snowstorm

Late Season Appalachian Snowstorm April 2-5, 1987

Snow began falling over portions of the Appalachians along a stationary front late on April 2nd. A surface low pressure system began forming in Georgia on the 3rd and rapidly intensified as it moved to Pennsylvania on the 4th. The storm dumped an unusually late and record-breaking heavy snow over the entire region during those two days, and the snow lingered in some areas through the 5th. Snow had fallen from as far south as Mobile, Alabama to western New York, with as much as 60 inches falling in the higher elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Newfound Gap to the south of Gatlinburg, TN. Mobile, Alabama had its first recorded April snow (flurries) since records began in 1872. Interstate 40 at the Tennessee-North Carolina border was closed for the first time since it opened 20 years prior to this event. Although widespread and resulting in millions of dollars in damage throughout the Appalachians, effects were generally short-lived due to the late season nature of the storm. However, a subsequent rapid snowmelt resulted in flooding in some areas. (Source: NCDC Storm Data)

Storm Impacts as well as weather maps from the event are below.

Eastern Kentucky Storm Impacts:

       One of the all-time heaviest snowfalls in southeastern Kentucky
       Snow began around mid morning on April 2nd and was light through that evening, with only about 1 to 2 inches reported near the KY/VA border.
       Snow continued overnight and by dawn on Friday April 3rd, about 4 inches was reported in the Cumberland Mountains
       The heavy snow continued and gradually spread northward on April 3rd and by Friday evening accumulations ranged from moderate amounts well away from the KY/VA border to 7 inches at the National Weather Service Office in Jackson, KY to as much as 1.5 Feet in the counties bordering Virginia.
       The snow had virtually paralyzed Southeastern Kentucky by the evening of April 3, 1987.
       By evening of April 3rd, many power lines had been downed and more than 18,000 residents were without power (some remained without power until April 6th).
       Emergency Shelters were set up at several locations for those without heat. 
       Roads became hazardous and even impassable in some areas due to downed trees.
       A second round of snow fell Saturday afternoon, April 4th through Sunday morning, April 5th. Much of this was enhanced by upslope northwest flow. By noon on April 5th, the snow storm had buried most of Southeast Kentucky in 1 to 3 Feet of snow with the highest totals in Letcher and Pike Counties. 
       Gusty northwest winds produced considerable blowing and drifting snow. Reports of drifts as high as 10 feet were received from Letcher County.
       Snowmelt from the snowstorm resulted in flooding of smaller streams and creeks in Pike and Letcher counties by April 6th through 8th.
       Traffic was restricted to emergency traffic only in the Fleming-Neon community during the flooding.
       Numerous locations in Pike County reported water over the roads or bridges
       A few homes were evacuated along a creek in Pike County
       Most of the snowmelt occurred in a 12 hour period
       Several mudslides blocked roadways as a result of the snowmelt

       At Mayking in Letcher County, a 12 year old riding a bicycle along US 119 slid into flood swollen Cram Creek and drowned before he could be rescued.

Source: NCDC Storm Data


Snowfall Analysis from Eastern Kentucky and Surrounding areas. Numbers in red are storm total snowfall from various locations throughout the region. Snowfall near the Virginia border was reported to be as high as 30 to 36 inches in sections of Pike and Letcher counties.


Surface Analysis from the morning of April 2, 1987.


Upper Level Analysis from the morning of April 2, 1987.




Surface Analysis from the morning of April 3, 1987.




Upper Level Analysis from the morning of April 3, 1987.


Surface Analysis from the morning of April 4, 1987.

Upper Level Analysis from the morning of April 4, 1987.

Surface Analysis from the morning of April 5, 1987.

Upper Level Analysis from the morning of April 5, 1987. 

Return to News Archive

USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.