1, 2, 3, 4…

2010-02-15 23:21:04.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

You can’t always count on something this good!

Working on the summit over the years, most of them during the dark, night time hours, I have memorized several sequences of numbers I would have never committed to memory prior to working here. Some daily examples are: 0.0295299278 – the number I have to use to convert millibars to inches of mercury, 1.15 – since most of our forms and instruments measure in knots, I have to use 1 knot equals 1.15 mph for conversions when people ask, 25.4 – to covert from 1 inch to millimeters for measuring precipitation versus snowfall using our ruler, 231 – our highest wind speed, 182 – our second highest wind speed since most tourist follow-up with that question, 72 – the highest temperature in Fahrenheit that the summit has reached since 1932 and -47 – being the lowest temperature in Fahrenheit that we have reached. There are several others but these are the big ones. But I also have walking distances and steps committed to memory.

I don’t count them because I am bored or have some sort of counting complex like Sesame Streets’ The Count. I do them for point of reference because there are many times where I can’t see where I am going, whether it is up a ladder or out to get the precipitation can. So let me start on the inside and work my way out. From the weather room, there are 20 steps up to the observation deck (although in the picture, I am looking down) and 18 steps down to the living quarters (although I usually skip the last one making it 17). And usually running up them, I go every other step. But in the case where the building totally loses all power or the tower goes suddenly dark or if I am carrying a large object down or up where I can’t look where I am going, I can use these numbers to get there safely. From the top of the stairs that lead to the observation deck, there is a slanted ladder of sorts that has 13 steps going to the cold room (again, the picture is looking down). Good to know, again if you are carrying something large on them and can’t look down to where you are stepping. I actually gave a tour once where the guest counted the steps and refused to go up due to her phobia of the number 13. So now you know in case you share a similar phobia.

Once in the weather room, there is a steep ladder leading to the top of our parapet where we have to deice. Again, in case the lights go out or I am carrying a large object up through the small hole these lead to, its good to know how much further I have. But also, a third of the way up, one of the steps is a bit larger than the rest so its good to know when to expect this so I don’t fall. Going up, this gap is my fifth step up and on the way down it is my sixth step down. But all together, there are about 10 steps here to get up and down depending on if you don’t step on the last one at the top which is even with the grating. To get up to the instruments, there are 6 steps to go up and since I have had the single light burn out on me while deicing in hurricane force winds, it was really nice to know how far I had to go to get off the top of the tower.

The last step count I have committed to memory is the amount it takes me (on average) to get to the precipitation can and back. This is handy during nights when the fog is so dense that I can’t see more than five feet or my headlamp blows off and I’m in the dark or blowing snow is whipping at me. It is good to count how many steps out you are from the safety of the building. On a low wind night when I can walk normally but can’t see, it is 32 of my steps from the corner of the building to the can, so 64 round trip steps. On a bad wind day, I use this as reference but also count my steps going out as it usually takes a lot more to get there when you are half stepping to fight against the wind. But I have yet to walk past it, even on the night I was thrown against the cog tracks when winds were building to 158 mph (but luckily I was on the top of the tower for those gusts and not still stuck by the cog tracks).

So counting steps might not be that strange especially when it comes to safety but what I find odd is when I am counting my steps to get the precipitation can, a song by Bjork called “107 Steps” is playing in my head. It isn’t 107 steps to anything up here but it’s a catchy song (to me at least) that makes it a bit fun to get the precipitation can. But thankfully counting my steps doesn’t occur too often for me. But if you find yourself up here on a foggy night and hear someone counting/singing from somewhere in the dense fog, it isn’t a ghost, it’s just me walking to and from the precipitation can.


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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