No Shift Change? No Problem!

2012-01-18 23:27:42.000 – Mike Carmon,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

3-5 a.m. Wednesday Winds

The cold front is long gone, but we remain here.

In yesterday’s comment, I was highlighting the fact that we may have some trouble with shift change today. My forecast turned out to be spot-on accurate, as the decision was made to not even attempt a shift change this morning. At the time the other shift would have been making their way to the summit in the Snow Cat, winds were averaging 90-100 mph, and gusting as high as 110 mph. Add on the fact that temperatures were plummeting below zero degrees, and freezing fog and blowing snow were reducing visibility to a mere 25 feet or so, and you’d have quite a precarious situation. We opted to avoid that situation altogether.

Although I am usually itching to get down on Wednesday after being isolated from my home, my friends and my family for a week, I was excited last night about the winds we could experience that would aid in keeping us stranded for a day. The cold front did not disappoint, although around 1 a.m. last night, I was starting to think it might.

Around the 1 a.m. time frame last night, winds were sustained at a decent 70 mph, but on a downward trend. Instead of getting louder, conditions outside were trending towards the quieter side of things, and I was looking at the computer models and once again wondering if I had put too much faith in them. This continued through until 2 a.m., when I noticed a line of showers bearing down on the summit. I assumed this was the leading edge of the cold front, and thought this might be the harbinger of a wild conclusion to the night.

That’s exactly what happened. By my observation time at 2:45 a.m., winds had shot up to just shy of 100 mph sustained, and were gusting near 110 mph. De-icing at this time was a struggle as I fought the force of the winds to ascend the parapet and manipulate the crow bar to remove rapidly accruing rime ice.

The 3-4 a.m. hour was the highlight. Although I was attempting to forecast, I couldn’t help but run over to the Hays Chart every time I heard a roar that sounded louder than the last. The 3-4 a.m. hour winds averaged a strong 109 mph, one of the highest hourly averages I’ve personally ever seen in 3 years. The next hour was a close second, averaging 108 mph, and producing our peak wind gust for the event of 129 mph. I can safely say I was on the tower de-icing in a 123 mph gust, which plastered me against the pitot pole-a position many an observer is familiar with.

The pure joy I had in watching the Hays Chart, listening to the roar of the winds, pushing myself onto the tower amidst these monster winds, and only wanting winds to keep ramping up, was a pleasant reminder as to why I’m up here in the first place, and well worth the extra work day.


Mike Carmon,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

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