A Change in the Weather

2006-07-29 07:16:23.000 – Rick Comeau,  Teacher Extern

The Northeast is experiencing a heat wave coupled with oppressive dew point levels. The combined effects on humans, animals and air quality are numerous. What comes to my mind is the cold drink errantly placed on a fine wooden table top, and the water ring that forms as the moist air quickly condenses on the surface of your favorite “cold one.” What also comes to mind are the folks with a taste for the finer things who might enjoy leather car seats or leather furniture. These weather conditions give reason to pause, reflect and wonder, “What was I thinking,” as arms and undersides of thighs become permanently glued, seemingly conjoined, to a leather surface.

Weather conditions on the summit these past two days, have been rather uneventful; mostly in the fog, 20-30 mph winds and temperatures in the high 50’s. Boredom was beginning to creep in. I privately wished for an afghan, a good book, a lounge chair and a place to nap. All was soon to change, however.

As fog over the summit thickened throughout the morning, by early afternoon Doppler radar indicated bands of thunderstorms were taking aim on the summit. We wondered (and hoped), could this be “the big one?” As the cells approached from the SW, each inevitably slid to the north or south of the Presidential range, only to reorganize east of the summit and unleash their energy in several Maine counties.

At approximately 2:48 in the afternoon, the winds began to increase to 35 mph with respectable gusts to 48 mph, when the clouds burst, the windows began to vibrate from the force of slashing rain. The force of the wind, too, created that familiar “freight train” sound. In a matter of three hours we recorded 2.39 inches of rain; the most recorded since May. Even more impressive were the winds which dramatically changed direction. The change took place within a two minute time period! The winds swung around from 199 degrees S, to 316 degrees NW! The directional change was uncharacteristic for the observatory. I’m told these sudden and extreme directional wind shifts usually occur when a cold front passes, but usually only occur in conjuction with light winds. Today, this was not the case as wind speeds remained around 30 mph during the sudden wind shift!

The weather event was the highpoint of what was a mostly a quiet day here on the summit. The exception, though, were the hikers. Those arriving in the afternoon were above tree line when the skies unleashed their energy and conditions grew ripe for hypothermia. Those climbing in shorts, tee shirt and only rain gear, arrived soaked to the bone, tired, bewildered and battered, hands shaking and teeth chattering. The refuge of the park building and cups of hot chocolate couldn’t have come soon enough for these lucky souls.


Rick Comeau,  Teacher Extern

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