Signs of summer
2010-04-24 23:42:13.000 – Ryan Knapp, Staff Meteorologist
Todays spring sunset.
Summer is on its way. The signs are all around us, and I’m not just talking about the weather. If I were talking about the weather of recent though, you would never guess that summer was approaching. When we headed down on Wednesday, April 14th for our off week, the summit had about eight inches on the ground with a lot of exposed rocks. Since that time, 17 inches of new snow has fallen on the summit. Not all of that has stuck around as the winds blow it about and the longer days, warmer temperatures, and occasionally dry days have ate away at it leaving a total of only 18 inches of old snow, new snow, ice and rime left on the ground. Not a lot compared to January but quite a contrast between our shifts and a scene of pure winter bliss. But the coming signs of summer are evident in other ways other than ground cover.
Like I already mentioned, another sign would be the longer days. The sun, when not obscured by clouds or fog, can shine on the summit for just over 14 hours a day this time of year. I get to see the sun rise and set instead of just setting like I do in the middle of winter on my shift. The longer days also allow me or my coworkers to get out and play a bit more since there is plenty of sunshine before my shift starts or after my dayshift counterparts get done with theirs. And the solar gain from the longer days allows the snow to corn up nicely for skiing even on days where we don’t get above freezing, which is still common for this time of year with normal daily averages still in the upper 20s. The only downside of having the longer days means that there is more time for the snow to melt as the sun hits it.
With the snow melting out from the base of the mountain and working upward, the road we drive to get up/down is slowly starting to clear out. But parts of the road still have a lot of snow on them. If the Mount Washington Auto Road waited for these to melt out, they probably wouldn’t open up until July. Therefore, the past few shift changes we have passed bulldozers and backhoes on our way up/down as the Mount Washington Auto Road continues to clear the road of winter debris (like tree branches) and snow. When we passed them on the 21st, they were beginning work on the drifts along the 5 mile mark of the road. These drifts, as you can see from this picture, are several feet deep. But inch by inch they crawl their way up the mountain and share their progress in their blog and on their facebook page; definitely worth checking out, especially if you are looking for when things might be open up to drive up.
When we arrived on Wednesday, the rotunda of NH State Parks’ Sherman Adams Building was starting to shape up into summer mode. The floor was recoated in a shiny new sealant and several tables were set up with six red chairs around each one of them. The wafts of cleaning products are starting to fill the air as equipment that has lay dormant since closing last fall are gradually being prepped. And sometime during mid to late May, the building will once again be open to the public (but be advised: all summit buildings are currently still closed to the public). Nothing is in stone yet as with everything on the summit it’s all “weather pending”. But you can check out their website for exact opening dates when they are posted.
Another sign of summer was already mentioned by Brian a few days ago: Marty, the summit cat, is starting to venture back outside. That’s not to say he doesn’t go out in the winter but in the winter, he isn’t sitting patiently at the deck door waiting to go out. In the winter, he follows us up, we open the door, and then see his face replicates a baby eating a lemon for the first time as the rush of cold hits him and he immediately regrets following us up. But in the summer, we open the door and all we see is a blur of black fur darting out the door not to be seen until a few hours later when he wants back in. And when he comes back in, he doesn’t just run down and start sleeping. With all the doors starting to open with the milder weather, he is coming up and hanging out in the weather room. This is one of my joys of summer as it gives me “someone” to talk to during the night shifts. I talk and the cat listens. It’s very therapeutic and calming as his only response is to flop down on the desk like he’s saying, “I know, I know; here, pet me and you will feel all better.”
And then there are the final two signs that we are looking for that signal summer is approaching, and neither of them have been seen quite yet. The first is: the Cog. On their website (as of this writing), the first train is projected to run on May first. I am not sure if this date is to the summit or half way though. But with only about a week left until this date, it is only a matter of time until we see the work crews starting to head up doing various repairs to the track and clearing the remaining snow off the tracks. So, there is a chance that by the next shift week I come up here, the sounds of a train whistle will be heard twice a day on the weekends.
The final sign will come once everything else I mentioned falls into place and that is the return of the summer employees and the crowds these employees are up here to service. For the auto road, it means staffing in the Stage Office as well as their Stage drivers. For the Cog, it means staffing in the Post Office and the Cog Operators. For State Park, it means concession and gift shop employees as well as additional front desk help. And for us, it means two new interns on each shift as well as a museum attendant on each shift in addition to a whole new slew of first time summer volunteers each week.
So farewell winter, you will be missed. You weren’t very memorable as far as weather goes but the events you did provide and the people that were here to share them with us were. And it’s not like you are leaving us forever as you will return next year. But until that time, we welcome your brother summer with open arms and welcome all the new faces and events that come with it.
Ryan Knapp, Staff Meteorologist