Better late than never.
2011-02-20 23:19:41.000 – Ryan Knapp, Staff Meteorologist
Todays sunset, exactly as we expected.
During my off week, the other shift gave us a heads up on Monday the 14th that the models were consistently calling for 100+ mph sustained winds on Friday into Saturday. With an overnight trip planned for that Friday night into Saturday, there was some discussion on what we should do. Should the trip be attempted, delayed or cancelled? Since it was still about a week away, we decided to take a wait and see approach and decide as the event drew closer. We would continue to monitor the models and weather pattern and make a call on Wednesday or Thursday as to what should be done. As the big event drew closer, the models started to go a bit haywire and it started to become anyone’s guess. So we decided to keep the scheduled trip and hope for the best. And since my half week of vacation and plans to hang out with my coworkers on the other shift depended on this trip, keeping it scheduled was exactly what I wanted to hear.
Friday arrived and I continuously called the summit for updates on how things were looking for Saturday. The winds, although high, were not nearly as high as models were previously showing. So the planned trip on Saturday was a go. So, I arrived at the base at 10 am Saturday, and up we went. Now, I’m not sure how the trip went coming up since I slept from the moment the door to the cabin closed at the base until it opened on the summit 2 hours later. But according to the operators of the Bombardier snow tractor, we had to stop quite frequently above treeline due to white out conditions. But inch by inch we were able to come up, drop me off and pick up our down going guests.
Prior to continuing my sleep on the summit, I got a briefing about the weather and briefly examined the models. Although there was an indication of increased winds overnight, the 100+mph winds appeared to have left the model runs. So, I expected my night shift to be relatively uneventful. When I awoke Saturday afternoon, things were still being shown in the models as only moderate winds. As the night wore on however, things started to climb. When I went on shift after dinner, winds were averaging 40 mph. The next hour, they were averaging 50 mph. An hour later, 60 mph. With each passing hour, another 10 mph was added until things peaked out between 2 and 3 am this morning. Our peak wind was nothing impressive to me at only 109 mph but winds during most of the hour were averaging over the century mark leaving our wind speed dial to max out and hold at the 100 mph mark (I know the picture of the dial says knots but it is calibrated for mph).
So the winds we had been expecting over a week ago finally arrived. They weren’t nearly as high as we were anticipating, they arrived later than we were anticipating, and according to the model runs just before the event, weren’t even suppose to happen at all. Luckily major hiccups like these in the weather models are infrequent but they do occur. Sometimes they work for us other times they work against us. This time, I’m glad that they worked in our favor. It allowed the upcoming guests to have their trip and summit experience, it allowed me the opportunity to hang with a group of awesome people and still come up on time, and it allowed Brian a trip down to do some much needed work in the valley offices for the remainder of this work week.
Ryan Knapp, Staff Meteorologist