2011-08-02 00:07:47.000 – Mike Carmon, Observer / Meteorologist
Weather nerdi-ness abounds in the following comment (just so you, comment reader, understand where I hail from).
While forecasting yesterday morning, both the computer models and NWS were boasting a risk of severe thunderstorms during the afternoon. I, as a self-professed weather nerd, requisitely got quite excited, as the risk seemed to come out of nowhere. I was hoping to wake up later in the day to the sounds of thunder accompanied by a fantastic lightning feature presentation.
Although the afternoon did hold a few visible distant thunderstorms, the day did not progress at all as I had hoped. Once again, convection seemed to be everywhere but the summit, with severe thunderstorm warnings consistently lighting up the radar across Maine and southern New Hampshire. Another disappointment, so it would seem.
During the evening, after my first observation, I was calmly sitting in the weather room doing some work before dinner, when I turned around and looked out the window to the west, only to see a most impressive heavy rain shower heading quickly towards the summit. I checked the radar, and wouldn’t you know it–an intense thunderstorm heading right for us! I watched (sans popcorn) as the storm came closer and closer, engulfing small valley towns in a sheet of rain as it approached, and producing periodic cloud-to-ground lightning strikes.
What happened next was an event unlike I’d ever seen before!
Rain started to fall, but quickly turned to very small hail. The sounds of the hail pelting the window were unmistakable, and I remarked to the now-growing audience in the weather room “This is getting a lot more interesting.” A mere few seconds later, the hail grew to severe limits, and started to come down in buckets. As a few of us quickly opened doors to grab specimen to measure the diameter, the hail pelted us with a painful fervor, while the rain continued to pour down and lightning lit up the skies above. The hail, which maxed out at about 1″ in diameter, continued for a staggering 40 minutes!
Hail accumulated all across the summit, with windswept piles up to .6″ in some isolated spots. The best part was, the summit remained free of fog for much of the event, allowing us to witness the hail shower descend upon the summit cone, reminding us all of the impending wintry precipitation to come. The mountain raged with a ferocious temperance that I have not had the pleasure to witness in quite some months. Whenever conditions would seem to subside and take a turn towards placid, the effects of orographic lifting would reinvigorate the storm, and several cloud-to-ground lightning strikes were witnessed striking the summit cone by the entire staff. A violent evening it was!
I’ve been on staff here at the Observatory for just about 3 years now, and this was by far the most impressive hail storm I’ve ever witnessed–here, or anywhere else.
Few places on Earth offer forecasting challenges quite like New England, and few Meteorologists have embraced these challenges quite like Sarah Long. As the morning Meteorologist at WGME-TV in Portland, Sarah forecasts for the complex geography of Maine and New Hampshire complexities she understands first hand. After all, before moving to Portland she spent many winters working on top of Mount Washington! So please join us tonight at 7:00 PM for our ‘Science in the Mountains’ lecture series at our Weather Discovery Center Museum located in the heart of North Conway Village.
Mike Carmon, Observer / Meteorologist