Severe Weather Awareness Week
2017-05-02 16:39:50.000 – Nathan Flinchbaugh, Summit Intern
The week of May 1-5 has been declared Severe Weather Awareness Week in the state of New Hampshire by the National Weather Service. This is certainly an appropriate week to discuss this topic since severe weather has been making national news headlines with the rounds of heavy rain and tornadoes in the nation’s midsection. Luckily, events like these are extremely rare in New England, as most of the hazards facing New Hampshire have to do with snow and ice storms, along with spring flooding from a soaking rain and rapid snow melt. These situations are much easier to project several days in advance, allowing those affected to budget time to prepare. That being said, New Hampshire is also no stranger to summertime thunderstorms, occasional flash floods and hail, and even the rare tornado. These weather events are for the most part driven by convection, meaning they can develop on relatively short notice. Therefore, it is always good to have some sort of plan mapped out now rather than later, especially if you plan on venturing into the White Mountains this summer. If threatening weather approaches, you’ll need to take immediate action.
On top of monitoring the higher summits forecast page on the Observatory website, you’ll want to also familiarize yourself with National Weather Service products. It is this entity that will issue up to the minute watches and warnings relating to severe weather concerns. Certain risks will be enhanced if you’re above treeline or at the summit, so your response priorities may change depending on location. The following are two of the most common alerts that will surely be issued at some point this summer.
Severe Thunderstorm Watch:
Severe Thunderstorm Watch definition from the National Weather Service
A Severe Thunderstorm Watch will likely be issued relatively early in the day. The goal of this alert is to inform the public that atmospheric conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms.
What You Should Do: Consider postponing any hiking until the Watch expires. If you do decide to venture out, keep a keen eye out for any developing weather that could be threatening. Stay within a short distance of a safe shelter during the Watch period. Do not rely on a mobile device to monitor the weather as cell service is spotty at best in the White Mountains.
If you are at the summit, you can go about your business as usual, however keep an eye to the sky for any impending weather. Stay alert and listen to any instructions given by summit staff.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning:
Severe Thunderstorm Warning definition from the National Weather Service
A Severe Thunderstorm Warning will be issued if a thunderstorm with severe characteristics has developed. Because of this, time to prepare and act now becomes limited.
What You Should Do: Move to the closest shelter if possible immediately. If you find yourself too far from any shelter, move to a lower area away from water. If you cannot get below treeline, seek the lowest possible area, preferably with large boulders. Put on your raingear and remove your pack. Place your pack and any poles you have at least 100 feet away from your body. Huddle in place and cover your ears to protect yourself from intense noise until the storm passes.
If you are at the summit, move indoors immediately. Staff will make an announcement over the P.A. system with instructions. Since Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast with several towers, the chances of a direct strike somewhere on the summit will become extremely likely. Do not return outside until summit staff or New Hampshire State Park employees gives the okay.
As stated earlier, a good place to start when planning your trip is the Observatory’s higher summits forecast page. There may even be a thunderstorm potential in the near term!
Distant showers from an approaching thunderstorm last summer
Nathan Flinchbaugh, Summit Intern