Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 1, 2014

Multicolored ice formation has McDowell residents stumped

ELKHORN — Travelers along U.S. Route 52 in McDowell County have been treated to an unusual kaleidoscope of colors in the ice formation on Elkhorn Mountain.

“I had never seen anything like it before,” Tish Beasley of Elkhorn said. Beasley has lived in the Elkhorn area all of her life and retired as postmaster of the post office in Northfork. She said that she had not been out on the roads during the last cold snap, but her daughter took her to town last week and observed the distinctive colors.

“She asked me if I had ever seen anything like that before,” Beasley said. “I didn’t see it on the way up the mountain, but I looked for it when we came back. I told her that I hadn’t seen anything like that. I have no idea why it is like that.”

Beautiful ice falls are common roadside attractions in the coalfields during the winter months. “That’s just part of the beauty of living in the mountains,” Markella Gianato said.

Gianato lives in Kimball and hasn’t been on Route 52 on Elkhorn Mountain, and as a result, hasn’t seen any of the colored ice falls. However, the ice flows she has seen this year have been magnificent.

“I know they’ve been doing some work up on No. 4 Mountain,” Beasley said. “I guess it’s all Elkhorn Mountain. I know they took samples in Elkhorn Creek, but I don’t know if it has anything to do with that.”

An unidentified meteorologist with the National Weather Service speculated that natural mineral deposits or minerals displaced due to the coal mining process could be a factor, but would not hazard a guess without gathering a sample and testing it in a laboratory.

The search for an explanation touched off a small debate at the Welch Detachment of the West Virginia State Police between Trooper B.D. Gillespie and Trooper J.K. Weiss.

“The first time I saw it, I thought someone just shot it with a paint ball gun only I didn’t know how they got it to stick,” Gillespie said. “That was my first thought.”

“I don’t know what it is, but I know it didn’t come from a paint ball gun,” Weiss said. “They don’t have those colors.”

The mystery continues.

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