Sick Sick Mountain

2010-03-23 22:33:38.000 – Mike Carmon,  Staff Meteorologist

Patient Name: “Mount Washington”

Gazing at this mountain on a sunny summer day, you wouldn’t think this mountain was different than any other mountain. Sure, it’s the tallest in its range, but it’s not all that tall. Surrounding peaks always seem to “stand in awe of its grandeur” (they are shorter), and any passerby has described the mountain as “completely normal” (they say “that looks like an easy climb”).

Long ago, some brave souls had the idea to venture to the top of this mountain to take a gander at one of the best vistas the northeastern United States has to offer. However, what these brave souls didn’t realize is that the mountain is very “deceptive” (“home of the world’s worst weather”)-in a sometimes deadly way.

Through the years, millions of trips have been made to the top of this mountain. Some on foot, some on skis, some by carriage, some by car, some by train, and some by snow tractor. Sometimes they managed to catch the mountain when it was “in a good mood” (clear blue skies, light winds, 130 mile visibility), and some paid the ultimate price when they caught the mountain as it was “brooding” (winds in excess of 100 mph, heavy snow, freezing fog).

Somewhere along the way, some “psychologists” (scientists) decided the mountain’s mood swings were worth intense scrutiny, and instilled a “permanent institution” (observatory) on the mountain’s “head” (summit).

From personal experience, the mountain exhibits all sorts of symptoms, such as “heavy breathing” (high winds), “callous indifference” (cold temperatures), “clouded judgement” (fog) and, strangely enough, “extraordinary dandruff” (heavy snow).

Seven days ago, the latest group of these “psychologists trained specifically to study the mountain’s severe and often unbalanced disposition” (meteorologists) traveled the road to the mountain’s “institution for the specific study of its mood swings” (Mount Washington Observatory) for a week of observations.

Under our “intense scrutiny” (hourly weather observations) this week, we have concluded that the mountain has been in an uncharacteristically good mood until approximately 24 hours ago, when it unleashed a flurry of activity in the form of sleet, freezing rain, snow, and plenty of ice. However, the mountain’s “specific DSM-IV diagnosis handbook” (forecast models) is telling us that this is just the beginning of its latest lash-out.

Tomorrow, the mountain is expected to throw quite a tantrum, with “early morning breathing at a mild fit level” (winds at 55-75 mph), “afternoon breathing at a major tantrum level” (winds at 65-85 mph), and evening at a “full-fledged paroxysm” (winds at 80-100 mph). And, as is generally the case, the state of mind of the mountain will be “extremely murky” (foggy) during this latest outburst.

The problem with this “prognosis” (forecast) is that the hard-working “observers” (observers) may not be able to get out in time before the mountain begins to act up. There are a few possible issues with this ascent to the top. The first comes in the form of the effects of the mountain’s “uncharacteristically prolonged fever” (above average temperatures) that have led to “adverse health effects on its lower half” (slushy conditions on the auto road). The Snow Tractor that the observers use to gain access to the “institution” (observatory) does not handle these kinds of conditions very well. Then, there is the problem of the “anticipated outburst” (dramatic wind speed increase), which could also prove troublesome for the vehicle.

All we on the summit can do is watch and wait in hopes the mountain allows us to “wrap up our studies for the week and pardon ourselves to draw our conclusions” (GET DOWN!).


Mike Carmon,  Staff Meteorologist

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