Founder’s Day 2019!

2019-10-11 17:29:51.000 – Ian Bailey, Weather Observer/Education Specialist


Founders Day for the Observatory is just around the corner; Tuesday, October 15th! On that day, 87 years ago, Alex McKenzie, Robert Scott Monahan, Salvatore Pagliuca, Joe Dodge and Tikky the Cat picked up where the U.S. Signal Corps had left off, braved the intense weather conditions and started a weather record that has stood the test of time. With their trusty Sling Psychrometers and their Mercury Barometers set just right, they laid out a legacy that we have proudly continued to this day!

Conditions on the summit and in the early Observatory were a bit different than they are now, especially considering what the first Observatory was set in. Now known as the Stage Office, this relatively small wooden structure was (and still is) held down to the summit by heavy metal chains. Anchored in and holding on to the summit for dear life, this sturdy structure withstood some intense weather. It even held (mostly) during the incredible 231 mph “Big Wind” event in April of 1934.

Inside the Observatory, space was at a premium with a fully stocked supply of food, coal and other provisions, along with tools and instrumentation to last through the long winter. Dinner was family-style (and still is today), held by oil lamp light (not so much today) with what pleasant conversation could be had amidst the roaring winds. With plenty of observations to take and projects to work on, it was a lot of good, hard work for these early Citizen Scientists! And all of that work became the foundation for what the Observatory has evolved into today!


We have grown quite a bit over the last 87 years, and have been here to witness some very impressive storms! We posted a listing of some of our biggest landmark events of our history a few years back, and I decided to update it for this year! Check this out!

1934: A wind speed of 231 MPH was recorded on April 12th by the Mount Washington Observatory, the fastest surface wind speed ever recorded up until 1996

1947: Our lowest ever temperature was recorded at -47°F

1954: Hurricane Carol made landfall in southern New England and passed very close to Mount Washington, producing a wind gust of 142 MPH and nearly 4″ of rain.

1957: Our record snowfall total for the month of July was recorded at 1.1″

1968-1969: Our snowiest winter season, with a grand total of 566.4″

1975: In August, our warmest temperature of 72°F was recorded for the first time.

2003: In June, our warmest temperature of 72°F was recorded for the second time.

2006: A wind speed of 158 MPH was recorded, one of the highest gusts of the 21st century.

2011: The remnants of Hurricane Irene passed directly over the summit, dropping 6.66″ of rain and producing wind speeds in excess of 120 MPH.

2012: Hurricane Sandy’s landfall in NJ produced its highest gust over 400 miles away on the summit of Mount Washington, at 140 MPH

2015: The President’s Day Storm produced sustained winds around 140 MPH, temperatures as low as -35º F, and wind chills at a bone chilling -90ºF.

2019: An incredible low pressure system advanced along the St. Lawrence River and blasted the summit with a 171 MPH gust, the strongest winds recorded in the last 35 years.

And over these crazy 87 years, we’ve improved quite a bit! We’ve enhanced our measurement methods and research practices, product tested and incorporated new technology (like the GE Pitot and the soon-to-be-constructed-and-updated Weather Wall), and have shared our observations and knowledge with the world through Edutrips, Streamable Learning Programs and Tours. However, even with all the change and growth you’ll still find our hardy Observers on the deck, every hour, trusty Sling Psychrometer in hand and Mercury Barometer set to go, taking the observation just like our Founders did all those years ago…

You can celebrate our Founders Day with us! We have plenty of fun activities going on both here on the summit and down in the valley on Monday, October 14th! Here at the Obs, you can sign up for a tour down in our Extreme Mount Washington Museum to get a behind-the-scenes look at life and work here on the top of New England! With juice and baked good as well! And down in the valley at the Weather Discovery Center, there will be free admission into the museum from 10:00 am until 3:00 pm! There will even be free Live from the Rockpile connections at 11:00 am, 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm where you can connect live up here to the summit with me, and I’ll show you the ropes regarding all of our important work! Don’t worry, as they’ll have juice and cookies too!

It’s going to be a wonderful day of celebrating the Observatory and all of the hard work that’s been done over the last 87 years. Thank you to everyone who has stood with us all along this journey, supporting the Observatory through membership, fundraising and countless hours of volunteer work. Your dedication has been an incredible help that has been truly instrumental in our success. And with your continued passion and commitment, we’ll be able to press on and keep working hard for many years to come!

I hope that you’ll join us to celebrate on Tuesday, and we’ll be looking forward to seeing you soon!


Ian Bailey, Weather Observer/Education Specialist

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