A Volunteer’s Week

2009-10-13 14:33:46.000 – Jim Hilt,  Summit Volunteer

No, volunteers don’t have any weather duties but this is an opportunity to see how the weather is recorded. For example the wind speed instrument used here is the only one on land. It is a pitot tube that measures wind speed by pointing directly into the wind. As this tube (it is heated) leads to a manometer (tube filled with water), a pressure can be measured and converted to wind speed. Normally a pitot tube is used in planes, but it has been shown that it is more effective here than the normal 3-cup anemometer. They haven’t had good luck with the 3-cup anyway – they have broken in high winds. I had a chance to go to the observation deck and “stand” in 85-93 mph winds, leaning is a better word. That night (10/8) a wind gust to 107mph was recorded. After waiting three days with zero visibility, the clouds parted and we could see sweeping vistas of Fall colors. Taking pictures was limited to about 15 minutes – it was 20 with a wind 50-60mph.

Mt Washington has more deaths than any other mountain in the US. In the few days I’ve been here I understand why – the weather can go from wicked bad (clear and windy) to lethal (foggy and windy) in minutes. Here’s a hiker who walked about a mile in freezing fog. Even though the current weather and forecast [the staff make excellent forecasts] are widely available, I saw a lot of hikers who don’t respect the weather. This picture was taken when it was 20 degrees with 50-60 mph winds. The mountain top has its own micro-climate – snowing while it is 50 and sunny in the valleys. Today (10/13) is different, it is snowing here and in Berlin, NH.

Marty is the current in-resident cat, there are posters of him – these are rare pictures, Marty rarely poses in the snow, this picture is what he does best. He earns his keep by catching the field mice that have the audacity to come in out of the cold. Marty replaced Nin who lived to 18.

Other little known facts – at this time of the year the perfect place to keep beer cold is at the base of the tower (there is no TV up here) and it has a submarine door the only one on a mountain top. Clearly they are planning ahead for the rise in the ocean levels, you can never be too careful about these things. The old stove is being replaced by a new high tech Viking. Note the high tech hook holding the old oven door closed.

Are there any downsides, yes, being separated from my wife but where else can you experience 85mph winds and blizzards?


Jim Hilt,  Summit Volunteer

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