2007-12-17 09:30:15.000 – Stacey Kawecki, Observer
Gotta Love It
It’s been a very interesting week on top of Mount Washington, thus far. First of all, Zach is not with us this week, and this is my first time being on days by myself. This has resulted in me spending some time after dinner finishing up some paper work almost every night. If you frequent the website and check out the current conditions often, you might have noticed a very strange phenomenon. On Wednesday, winds appeared to go completely calm. This was not the case. Repeating the gut-wrenching experience that occurred last shift week, ice got into the lines for the Pitot tube, obstructing the flow of air, and making measurement not possible. At least this time, we were prepared. This happened again last night. Seems to be the luck this week.
Beginning with Wednesday, very soon after arriving on the summit, winds peaked at 117 mph. This was probably the best foreshadowing ever. Five out of six days, winds exceeded the century mark, and on that sixth day, winds were still sustained at over hurricane force for a little while. One might ask, “So, what’s it like up there when it’s that windy?” I’m going to attempt to answer that question.
Before even venturing outside, one has to take a little bit of time to dress properly. Long johns, fleece pants, snow pants, wool socks, snow boots, a sweater , down jacket, Gore-Tex shell, face mask, mittens, goggles, hat (I wear two because if I don’t, they blow off my head), and maybe a head lamp. Then you proceed to the tower. You want to check on the heaters for the Pitot tube, see how they’re working. Then you go up the ladder, and that’s when it gets interesting. Different wind directions mean different things. If there is a NW wind, at close to or exceeding 100 mph, getting up the ladder into the parapet is difficult, you are literally pulling and pushing yourself against the wind. Then, once you’re inside, the wind immediately pins you to the posts, making moving a little challenging. However, the show must go on, and you must de-ice the instruments, especially the Pitot tube, which is just the highest thing on the tower. Yesterday, a pleasant (and I use this word with extreme amounts of sarcasm) SE wind blew ice pellets our way, at a maximum speed of 103 mph. This made for a very nice layer of glaze ice on the instruments, and our coats, boots, snow pants, goggles, pretty much everything. It also caused a small flood in the weather room after all the ice melted off our coats and pants. Glaze ice is a lot more difficult to deal with than rime ice. Rime ice is a light density, almost fluffy ice, due to lots of trapped air. The good news is that the glazing didn’t last for too long. However, as the storm that caused the ice pellets is on its way out, and as usual, it gets windy up here on the back end of the storm. There never is a dull moment atop Mount Washington!
Stacey Kawecki, Observer