Five weeks in the making

2008-05-08 03:12:17.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

April 2nd, 2008 was the last time I stepped foot on the summit of Mount Washington, NH. Flash forward roughly 35 days to May 7th, 2008 and my return to an altered summit. Rest easy though, the summit itself remains as true as it did when I left. It still rises to the notable 6288 feet as always and the buildings remain steadfast. It is the weather and the climate that have changed. Let me relate what I mean:

April 2, 2008: The high temperature for the day was 17 above which occurred around 1 am that day before decreasing through the day to about 10 above when I left. It snowed about an inch and there was about 5 inches of snow covering the entire summit with deeper drifts, accumulated from the past season. Winds during my last shift and on the trip down were gusting to 100 mph. We rode the snow cat from summit to base with about 3-4 feet of snow on the valley floors. The auto road had cleared snow from about a quarter mile of road at the base in preparation for their opening date. Almost all the ski resorts around the summit remained open. Everything visible from the summit (about 120 miles) was coated in white with near record snow pacts remaining from this season. My house in Berlin, NH had about a foot or two of snow around it. In short, the tail end of winter. Clothing: Down jacket, thermal underwear, wool socks, winter boots, snow pants, goggles and gloves.

May 7, 2008: The high temperature for the day was 40 above with a low of 26 above occurring around sunrise. It was raining during most of my shift. The snow pack…what snow pack? The summit has a few tiny blotches with streaks visible on the surrounding summits. Most of these streaks, although shrinking, will remain into next month though as these packs are very deep. But the even blanket of white visible across our five state viewing area has been replaced with a neon green hue as trees begin to bud. The auto road is practically clear and is actually open up to half way for tourists, but check their site before planning a trip. We drove from base to summit in our van with chains and four wheel drive to get through the mud and patches of snow that still remain to be cleared but everything looks to be on schedule. I was told the cog started coming up last weekend, which agrees with their website. The state park side of the building is painted and lacquered with tables and chairs ready for their opening day with a few more chores to do. All surrounding ski resorts are closed despite the ribbons of snow that remain, but Tuckerman Ravine still looks good (snowbladed it last Monday, but that’s another story). My house has flowers blooming and this morning, I was kicking myself for not mowing my lawn yesterday. Clothes: Hiking pants, soccer shirt, wool socks, summer boots.

So, hopefully this paints a picture of the changes I saw and felt. But, I remember the wise proverb I learned in junior high: “A picture is worth 1000 words.” So, I took 8 pictures to show the view from our parapet the week before I left and today when I returned. The 8 pictures represent North, Northeast, East, Southeast, South, Southwest, West, and Northwest. And in case you are wondering why I took these pictures before I left, it was not a coincidence. I usually formulate what I am going to write in these observer comments days, weeks, or months before I write them. I just jot down ideas and snap pics that I think might be useful and fun to use in the future. But I may delve into that in another comment. So listed below are the directions I took the pictures as well as a label of “Winter” and “Spring” to show the contrast.

Winter/ Spring

Winter/ Spring

Winter/ Spring

Winter/ Spring

Winter/ Spring

Winter/ Spring

Winter/ Spring

Winter/ Spring


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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