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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
The frigid cold since late December spawned a modest surge in visitors to state parks in North Carolina's mountains. They came to see the many waterfalls that froze into stunning ice sculptures.
South Mountains State Park near Morganton had 13 percent more visitors in the first week of January than it did a year ago — not what park officials had expected considering single-digit overnight temperatures.
Park staff see some ice along the sides of waterfalls about every five years, state parks division spokeswoman Katie Hall said, but the complete shell of ice encasing the park's Jacob Fork waterfall is very unusual. Former ranger and superintendent Allen Rogers could remember it happening only once, 25 years ago, Hall said.
Stone Mountain State Park Superintendent Bill Meyer estimates that about 100 visitors have stopped by specifically to look at the park's frozen waterfalls near the Virginia line.
Waterfalls are popular draws for park visitors in warm weather, and can sometimes be deadly. Dozens of people have been killed after falling from the top of falls that are up to 400 feet high.
The Forest Heritage Scenic Byway that runs through the Pisgah National Forest "looked more like a July 4 traffic jam over the weekend than a cold and lonely winter day," the Asheville Citizen-Times reported. The visitors came to see frozen, 60-foot Looking Glass Falls.
Many people slipped or fell on the thin ice coating the steps to the base of the falls, rangers said, and also fell into the moving water under the ice below the falls.
Temperatures soared Tuesday after the longest cold wave since 1977, the National Weather Service said. The eight-day cold snap was the fourth-longest on record in Charlotte and second-longest in Asheville, the service said.
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