Springtime tourists stranded at a mountain inn by more than 50 inches of snow finally got out Friday, and they were quickly replaced by fun-seekers who didn't mind weather-related hardships.
Because of the heavy snow, the Pisgah Inn, on the Blue Ridge Parkway near the summit of 5,749-foot Mt. Pisgah, had no hot water and no electricity, and amenities had given way to bare necessities.
"We've been without power for about 24 hours now," said Phyllis O'Connell, owner of the inn. "We're doing the best we can for our guests. Everybody's a good soldier."
The 51-room inn had about 75 guests Friday; its 60 employees live in nearby dormitories.
"We should have a full house tonight," O'Connell said. "They're coming from all over the state."
A group of about 20 tourists from Florida, stranded at the inn by the snow that began falling Wednesday, were escorted down the mountain by a Transylvania County sheriff's deputy after crews got a road open.
The National Weather Service said snow continued to fall Friday at upper and lower elevations of mountain areas in the Appalachians in western North Carolina. Meteorologist Jan Price said he had received a report of 57.5 inches on Mt. Pisgah.
"It's snowing hard," O'Connell said Friday afternoon.
Children built snowmen and adults skied on closed sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway, 700 feet below the top of the mountain.
"They're just milling around having fun. We've got people cross-country skiing; we had some snowmobiles up here this morning," O'Connell said.
"It's just kind of a carnival atmosphere--a winter carnival."
Slippery roads and downed power lines had blocked two buses, in one case trapping a busload of Pisgah High School students between downed lines in front and a tree that crashed behind it.
Canton, near Asheville, reported light snow early Friday, as did Waynesville. Almost 5 inches of snow fell on Cashiers in Jackson County, bringing the total for that area to 10 inches.
Officials on Mt. Mitchell, the tallest peak east of the Rockies at 6,684 feet, reported 22 inches of snow.