Notes About Saturday

2015-07-17 18:02:32.000 – Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist


Tomorrow is our annual Seek the Peak event. Every year we hope that the weather is going to be spectacular – sunny, calm, warm, unlimited views, etc. In the 14 years of Seek the Peak, some years saw weather that was in fact spectacular. However, for most years, Mt Washington does what it does best and provides hikers with one or two elements of “bad” weather – rain, fog, high winds, cold, etc. But a small handful of years, the weather sets up to live up to our “World’s Worst Weather” title. This year is shaping up to be one of those years.
Over the past week, we have been watching the models for Saturday. Earlier this week, the initial indication of inclement weather was showing up. However, we weren’t overly concerned as a lot of things can happen in the way weather shapes up on the summit. While we weren’t too concerned at first, with each passing weather model run, the weather model on Saturday continued to hold. While we have been reporting this in our Higher Summits Forecast the past two days, we are aware not everyone may have read our reports. So, here is the outlook: a frontal boundary will be setting up over the region spreading rain in along with thunderstorms. Model soundings are indicating that by the afternoon, some isolated thunderstorms may become severe with heavy periods of rain, small hail, and violent gusts of wind. With rain falling overnight and through the day, heavy downpours could lead to flash flooding in some neighboring ravines and surrounding water crossings.
With this in mind for tomorrow, there are a few things Seek-the-Peakers (or any hiker for that matter) should note:
1. Huntington Ravine should not be your trail of choice. Moisture will make it extremely slick and if a thunderstorm occurs, you will be stuck, as down is not an option on this trail.
2. Rain will make everything slick.
3. Avoid anything cotton. Cotton doesn’t breathe and will soak up the moisture weighing you down and increasing the risk of overheating or hypothermia, depending on how your body reacts to expected temperatures and winds.
4. You will not be able to hear the thunder until it is too late. In ideal atmospheric conditions, thunder can be heard about 10 miles away. However, fog, winds, temperature, rain, etc. all play into limiting how far sound will travel. In any case, if you hear thunder within 10 miles above tree line, you will not have time to seek shelter.
5. You will not be able to see lightning coming. We will be in the clouds so you will not be able to see a storm coming. Or if you are below the clouds and thinking about coming up from Pinkham, you will not see the storms coming as they will be on the opposite side of the mountains.
6. You should consider a trail and/or peak below tree line as an alternative.
7. Lastly, if you Seek the Peak, you should also Chase the Base. In other words, if you hike up, you are responsible for getting down too. Participants should never depend on transportation down as weather can play into operations of the Mount Washington Auto Road and the Cog. Or if it is a busy day, there may not be any available seats. So only hike as far as you can go to still be able to walk back on your own.


Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist

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