An important question for travelers on the Blue Ridge Parkway, especially in the winter, is "How's the weather?" The Parkway is open year-round, with one important caveat: "As long as snow or ice do not create dangerous driving conditions." Now, thanks to a new website, BRPweather.com, it's possible to get real-time weather conditions and forecasts for multiple locations along the popular roadway before you decide to go for a drive.
Until the advent of this website, getting such site-specific weather information could be bit of a challenge, since most official weather stations are located at lower elevations, in nearby cities such as Asheville, North Carolina, and Roanoke, Virginia. The length of the Parkway (469 miles) and the variations in elevation (640 feet at the James River in Virginia to 6,047 feet at Richland Balsam in North Carolina) can create dramatic changes in weather and road conditions from one section of the drive to another.
Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation Funds the Cooperative Effort
BRPweather.com is funded by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, and is a partnership effort by that non-profit group and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian State University and RaysWeather.com. The combination of weather data and real-time images from webcams along the Parkway available on BRPwebcams.org offers valuable information about weather and road conditions.
Plans for the new weather website were described in an article in the Traveler earlier this year, and it's an example of the high-tech information sources being made available in a number of parks by friends groups and other non-profit partners. BRPweather.com officially went "live" last week.
Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation says, “We are so excited to see the BRPweather.com site go live. The impact this will have on visitors, local communities and on the managers of the Blue Ridge Parkway will be tremendous. As we all know, the weather in our mountains changes from one ridge to the next, and this site will help us all plan better, be prepared, and enjoy our Parkway adventures even more.”
Wide Variety of Weather Information Available on the Site
Using information from weather stations and webcams installed along the Parkway, BRPweather.com and BRPwebcams.org include custom forecasts, live weather conditions, live webcam images and video, radar and satellite imagery, along with climate information.
Having weather conditions and forecasting specific to the Blue Ridge Parkway will help visitors avoid severe conditions, allowing for better trip planning and a more enjoyable Parkway experience, but there is more to this project than just predicting weather hazards.
According to a Foundation spokesperson, "Data from the sites is freely available to researchers in a standard format for projects ranging from park management to research in climate/meteorology, education/outreach, ecology, biology, etc. The Park Service will use the webcams and weather information to improve safety on the Parkway by being more alert to weather changes and adverse road conditions."
The other source of information to check prior to planning a drive on the Parkway is the road closure page on the park website. Used in conjunction with the weather and webcam data on BRPweather.com and BRPwebcams.org, those updates can greatly reduce the odds of being disappointed by weather-caused interruptions to a trip along what has been described as "America's Favorite Drive."