8 Years on the Rockpile
2016-08-27 17:17:59.000 – Mike Carmon, Senior Weather Observer & Education Specialist
It’s hard to believe (although I’m sure I say that every year) that it’s been 8 years since I first stepped foot on the summit of Mount Washington as a summit intern on August 27, 2008. Having never lived outside of the state of New Jersey, my move up to New Hampshire was one I looked at with tremendous trepidation. It was 8 years ago, I was a scant 22 years-old, and I had never had a full-time job, having just graduated college.
The ride over the last 8 years has been tempestuous to say the least, but Mount Washington never fails to provide its trademark twist on all things related to weather and the Observatory. What never ceases to amaze me about this unique location will always be the extremes. I’m sure I take it for granted a lot more than I used to, but 100 mph winds will never EVER get old. If they do, well, then I give one of my shift-mates permission to bludgeon me over the head with one of the Obs’ crowbar’s, and snap me back into reality (I may delete this sentence later).
I wrote my first comment as an intern on August 28th, and in it I noted that “The weather for the past two days has been so clear and calm that it’s been difficult to be inside at all.” Hard to believe, but Mount Washington can provide those stretches of picturesque weather. Little did I know what was in store for me over the next 8 years…
In my next comment that week, I wrote “The winds picked up pretty quickly during the night, and I awoke to the howl of 70 mph gusts. It excited me a great deal, because I was finally going to get to experience the infamous winds that drew me up here in the first place.” 70 mph winds; exciting at the time, but there was oh so much more to come…
In November of 2009, a particularly memorable wind storm resulted in the following comments: “Around 5:20 a.m., Steve and Mary Ellen had awoken, and the morning transformed into a Hays Chart-watching session. We were all getting excited about each gust and hoping it would be surpassed by the next. Just before 5:25 a.m., the winds lulled to about 90 mph, then unexpectedly, an incredible roar jolted the building. I bolted to the Hays Chart to discover a reading of 9.8″ (nearly off the chart), which converted to 137.4 mph! For the second time during the evening, I couldn’t believe my eyes!”
137 mph: now we’re talking! That peak remains my personal record wind gust to this day. I’ve come close a few times, but have never surpassed that 137 mark…YET.
All of the crazy weather I’ve encountered was something I was anticipating (although not particularly ready for), but as they say, it’s what you’re not expecting that’s most exciting. In this case, the people!
Getting to know and working with the staff that have come and gone during my time at the Observatory’s summit station will leave me with the best memories by far when my time at MWO is all said and done.
From Brian Clark and Ryan Knapp, who were the first to train me as an intern, to Steve Welsh, my long-time shift leader and knower-of-all-things-IT. From Stacey Kawecki, the one I could always talk Jersey with, to Jordan Scampoli, my fellow fall-intern who cracked the whip with our nightly shift wall-sit sessions. There was Mike Finnegan, who never failed to give out hugs freely on shift change days, and of course Becca Scholand, who’s passion and dedication to MWO never failed to show through. And there’s Brian Fitzgerald, one of the few who left only to return as our new Director of Education. Finally, Slim Bryant, our seasoned Snow Cat Operator who got us up and down the Mount Washington Auto Road in harrowing conditions safely, week in and week out. There are far too many interns to list as well, but I certainly remember each one of them and the unique impacts they had on this place.
And then there’s the two most recent departures from the summit, namely Mike Kyle and Kaitlyn O’Brien, whom I worked closely with through a time of crazy transitions and seemingly perpetual upheaval on the summit. Saying farewell to the two of them as they moved forward in their careers was particularly bittersweet, but memories and lessons from those trying times will always be amongst the top highlights of my career at MWO thanks to those two fine and dedicated individuals.
There’s no time like the present though, and I couldn’t be happier with the makeup of my current shift. Working alongside Adam Gill and Caleb Meute is as fun as it is rewarding, due to their colorful personalities, unmatched work-ethics, and unrivaled dedication to the Observatory’s mission. This summer we’ve also been flanked by Jan Berriochoa, our hard-working Museum Attendant, who never fails to remind me how lucky I am to be working in such an amazing place.
Amazing indeed, and I’m looking forward to seeing what another Rockpile winter has in store!
Mike Carmon, Senior Weather Observer & Education Specialist