A Week of Winds and Welcomes!
2020-01-21 12:33:23.000 – Ian Bailey, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
Oh boy. What a wild week it has been. Being down an Observer always puts quite a large amount of strain on a shift, with the 2 observers working nearly double their work load. So we certainly do miss Adam. But of course, we hope everything is going well in his new position.
Centennial Birthday Board from AMS this year!
Jay and I came back on shift on the heels of the Centennial AMS conference in Boston. It was a wonderful experience overall! We met many young, aspiring Meteorologists who hopefully will look into our internship positions! And we made many great connections with loads of other professionals in the discipline, while showcasing the best of what the Observatory is/does and what makes this crazy mountain so wonderful! I hope the rest of my coworkers had as great of a time as I did. But wow, without having a full off week to rest and recover before coming back up…
Phew. Jay and I are pretty exhausted.
No time to rest though! Trip Season is finally in full swing, with the weather finally allowing groups to come up to the summit. And we had 3 full trips coming up this week, each of which were full of amazing individuals and lots of crazy, fun experiences to be had! Appropriately enough, the first group to join us on the summit were several individuals working for various branches of NOAA and the NWS!
We had spoken to several of these folks before during AMS, talking up how crazy this mountain’s weather can be. So of course, their interests were peaked with most of them never having made it to the summit before, let alone in Winter. The problem was, the weather was looking INTENSE. We had a low pressure system move through during the day on Thursday, dumping a few inches of snow and increasing our wind speeds to hurricane force! However, things intensified when the low began to move off to the Northeast (to inevitably dump an incredible amount of snow on Newfoundland) and a powerful high pressure system began to advance from the Great Lakes region. With a truly impressive pressure gradient building overhead, our wind speeds were topping out near 120 mph! And with high pressure moving in, it was windy, clear and cooooooooooold (wind chills between 50 to 60 degrees below)!
Nonetheless, we called on one of our trusty Snowcat drivers, Jon Powers, to drive the Cat and try to get the group to the top safely. No problem (relatively) for Jon, and before we knew it this group of very excited meteorologists were safely in the rotunda, ready for a tour! However, I’m not sure any of us were truly ready for the experience about to be had.
We took them up on to the Observation Deck first, to get an idea of not only where we go to take hourly observations, but also get their feet wet in the hurricane force wind speeds. With Northerly winds crashing down upon the deck in front of us, a powerful wind tunnel had established starting in the last 1/3 of the A-frame, across the front of the Cosmo Shack to finally spill out across the Obs deck proper. So you could barely exit the safety of the A-frame before you were getting crushed by the powerful waves of wind. It was difficult to fit everyone safely outside to get the experience, so I positioned myself partway down the wooden beam that runs across the front of the Cosmo Shack and invited people to come sit with me face first into 120 mph winds. It was incredible (and incredibly cold)! As we held on as tight as we could, we watched ice chunks fly past and smash to bits on the deck. It was so exciting, and a bit unnerving for sure. But we were able to get everyone back in safely (minus Keith’s glove) for the next part of the tour.
Me standing face first into 120 mph winds on top of the tower!
The tower. How could we not go up in the tower in these crazy winds (safely of course)? We carefully navigated the group up all the ladders and out on to the parapet, mere feet away from being fully exposed to the frenzied winds coming up. We showed them how to climb up and down the instrument ring properly, and showed them how to properly hang on in these ferocious speeds. My current wind speed record on the tower is 131 mph, so we weren’t quite there. But that doesn’t mean it was any less of a rush standing there, looking Mother Nature in the eye and withstanding her fury face first. And fortunately, everyone was able to get up there and do the same safely! Once everyone had their turn, we descended the tower and showed the group the rest of the Weather Station. I think they were all very excited and pleased to be able to experience such a crazy place! And we are so happy that they could come up and visit!
And of course, this is Caleb’s first week! Hopefully you all enjoyed his blog and got to know a little bit about him. He’s an incredibly fast learner and has met each challenge head on, ready to go! Imagine coming into a new work environment, and suddenly you find yourself working in 100+ mph winds, huge snow drifts, all while meeting a ton of new people! He certainly has taken it in stride, and is a welcome addition to our crew. Jay and I are very much looking forward to working with him through this harsh winter season.
Then we had our first Edutrip of the season on Saturday. Fortunately conditions calmed down enough for the group to get here safely. But not long after the Snowcat left, snow started once again and wind speeds ramped back up to the 80 mph range! It was quite appropriate, as the topic for the trip was Severe Winter Storms lead by yours truly, talking about Blizzard conditions, Nor’easters and Ice Storms. As always, you can see true learning happening when you talk about something in the conference room, then go outside and experience first-hand! People take what you taught them and can actually apply it! It’s one of my favorite parts about running Edutrips; that and meeting fascinating people from all walks of life and all different kinds of experiences. We spoke with Ex-Fire Marshalls, Doctors and Veterinarians, Financial Assistants, Marketing Managers and Media folks, and even a Military Veteran who has had some of the most incredible weather and war-time related experiences I’ve ever heard of. They were all wonderful people, and it was a pleasure to share a bit of science with them while taking them on the deck and into the tower to experience the power and frigidness of our weather up here.
And of course, a huge thank you to my crew (Jay, Caleb, Carrie, Bruce and Andrea) for helping make this a great trip! Carrie was a fantastic trip leader and super helpful in keeping the group organized from start to finish. Caleb was incredibly attentive and helpful as well, working with me to keep everyone busy and having fun, while simultaneously learning the ropes for himself. Bruce and Andrea, veteran volunteers each in their own right, worked so hard, non-stop all week, to provide delicious meals and keep the place clean and tidy! Jay even woke up early to help things run smoothly, and ended the night by giving a talk about Nor’easters, the focus of his Master’s thesis, which was so informative and helpful! If any of you guys are reading this, really, thank you for helping things go so well this weekend!
Lenticular cluds forming just NE of the summit during the Day Trip!
To round out the week of winds and welcomes, we had our first Day Trip of the season on Monday! A group of very polite and intrigued individuals rode to the summit to experience the weather and get a tour. Now, mind you, the wind had been blowing out of its mind since Thursday morning. And while it had lost a lot momentum by this point in the week, we were still seeing winds in the 60-70 mph range for this group. It was so awesome to see how interested and fascinated with everything up here they were. From the top of the tower down to the bunk rooms, these guys were like sponges taking in a ton of information as fast as I could give it to them. They too got their taste of high winds, asked tons of great questions about our work, and enjoyed a hot and tasty lunch before heading back down for the day. As I listened to them rant and rave about the experience, even as they were only just leaving the rotunda, I knew that we had really showed them how incredible and wonderful a place the Obs can be.
So! As you might imagine, we are all quite a bit tired coming up to shift change tomorrow. But despite the exhaustion, we often keep finding ourselves talking about each of the trips, the folks we met, and the crazy weather we were fortunate enough to experience. It was a hard, but enjoyable shift to say the least. And while I am looking forward to 6 days of resting ahead, I’ll be taking all of these good times this week and using them to keep my head up and keep us going strong through the rest of Trip Season! And of course, if you are interested in joining us for one of these awesome trips, check out https://www.mountwashington.org/experience-the-weather/summit-adventures/
Hopefully, we’ll see you up here soon!
Ian Bailey, Weather Observer/Education Specialist