Experiencing High Winds
2016-04-12 21:09:48.000 – Adam Gill, Weather Observer/Meteorologist
Being outside during high wind events is definitely a surreal experience. I started working here at the Mount Washington Observatory back in August of last year as an intern. During the summer and early fall, the winds up here are relatively weak compared to what we experience in the winter: 50 mph winds on a summer day is windy while in the winter, that is just a breeze. With that said, the first time I was able to experience a hurricane force wind was not until late September. Standing up on the tower with gusts over 80 mph had me in awe of how much force the wind can exert on objects. The first 100 mph wind event that I got to experience was not until October 30th. I woke up several hours early because the highest winds were expected to occur between 4 and 5 am but was disappointed when the winds were only topping out in the mid-80s. Several hours later, around 7 am, I was getting the AMC morning weather report ready when I heard loud roar. I rushed over to the Hays chart to see what that gust was – 102 mph. I was unable to go outside because of the radio call that I had to do but now the winds were consistently gusting over 100 and slowly getting stronger.
By the time I finished the radio call, the winds were now gusting over 110 mph and were sustained in the upper 90s. I ran outside to see what the winds would feel like and as soon as I stepped out from the protected part of the deck downwind of out tower, I was knocked off my feet and blown across the deck. I had to army crawl back to the protected part of the deck before I was able to stand back up. I realized then at how much I have underestimated high winds, and that I have never experienced winds over 100 mph, not even close. I thought that I did experience high winds while storm chasing in 2014 when we intercepted a storm that had winds clocked at 96 mph less than a mile from our location but I was able to stand in that wind just fine leaning into it a bit, so 110 mph winds should have been no problem. I look back on that time and figured that the winds I experienced were maybe around 60 mph. This is because where the 96 mph wind was recorded, which was at an airport with few trees and buildings to slow the wind down, as well as the anemometer being 10 meters off the ground to sample winds with as little friction from the surface as possible. On the other hand, where I was standing there were trees and buildings around significantly slowing the winds down. At the summit of Mount Washington, there are very few objects to slow the winds down, even near the surface.
Ever since then, I have experienced 100 mph winds on almost every shift this winter, and had a few weeks with multiple 100 mph days. I have tried to complete the century club multiple times and have been knocked down every time, but I am slowly getting better but now just need to wait for a time when the deck is clear of ice so finding traction will not be so hard!
As of now, the highest winds I have experienced so far has been 133 mph on March 29, 2016 and was lucky enough to have been outside on the tower deicing when the gust occurred. The force of the wind pinned me to the wind vane for several seconds until the gust subsided. It caught me off guard because when I checked the wind before I went out, it looked like the winds were dying down and it was going to be easy deicing. I was really quite glad that the winds were that high because I thought that a 110 mph gust had me pinned to the wind vane!
Adam Gill, Weather Observer/Meteorologist