Something is up With the Number 127…
2017-01-30 06:01:15.000 – Caleb Meute, Weather Observer / Meteorologist
Prior to the past few days, the peak wind gust I experienced atop the Rockpile was 120 mph. Two nights ago in the hours leading up to midnight, the winds were strong, but they really failed to compare to the previous night when we hit 127 mph. Several guests and volunteers were sitting around the weather room well into the night waiting to see how high the winds would get, although we were not anticipating anything in comparison to the 127 mph gust from the night before. Jeff Swanson, summit volunteer, had made it to around midnight when I was getting ready to swap out the precipitation cans. I told Jeff it might be fun for him to accompany me to the precipitation can to experience winds sustained around hurricane force. Jeff is very enthusiastic about the weather up here and has accompanied me to the tower multiple times this week to witness the task of deicing in strong winds, so I thought this would be a neat opportunity.
In the hour leading up to the precipitation can collection, things really began to escalate. Winds quickly ramped up from being sustained around 80 mph to 100 mph and gusts started to become violent. Thirty minutes before the collection, I told Jeff that if it kept up we would be unable to. Before this observation, I did not think there were many conditions that would actually restrict me from collecting the can (apart from lightning of course), but I was wrong. Sitting in the weather room, the building began to rumble and the noise outside was something that I had never heard before. Gusting into the 110-120 mph range, it sounded as if a Freight Train was passing inches from the windows, and that noise then escalated even further. Two minutes before the time of can collection, I was completing a task at the computer and Jeff was over by the Hays Chart intently observing the needle and its rapid fluctuations. All of the sudden, the loud Freight Train noise transitioned to some sort of loud explosion just outside the windows and the building began to rumble forcefully. I immediately looked over to Jeff and asked him what the needle had jumped to for a quick estimate at what the winds were gusting to and he frenetically announced that we jumped to what appeared to be higher than yesterday’s peak. I obviously panicked and ran downstairs to wake up fellow Observers to experience what was going on. Adam ran upstairs and joined Jeff in watching the Hays needle take large jumps back and forth indicating the massive gusts that were occurring outside. Adam then woke up our President Sharon Schilling and the four of us stood in awe in the weather room listening to the true power that nature can unleash atop this mountain.
While looking at the needle, we suddenly noticed the winds seemed to dampen, despite the noise being the same magnitude outside. This meant that our good pal, rime ice, had built up and was restricting the Pitot Tube from making accurate measurements. During these days of strong winds, we had been deicing the tower every 20-30 minutes to keep up with the rapid accrual of ice, so immediately I knew I had to head up top. I suited up along with Adam and Sharon to go up and battle the winds that were frequently gusting in excess of 120 mph.
Opening the door, my ears popped instantly and the noise was indescribable. I climbed up the ladder and hurled myself onto my back with each of my feet propped against one of the poles to keep me from sliding around. Once I attempted to stand up, the winds drove me into the railing and quickly I took a few swings at the poles holding the instruments and the ice came free. The process that followed of turning to face the winds and climb down the ladder was the most difficult part. Making that turn, you are essentially relying on your arm to catch onto the ladder and then you can make your way down. When we got back to the weather room, we checked the gusts and saw that the peak while I was on top was 125 mph!
Long story short (if you do not feel like reading all of that) my new peak gust while being outside and on top of the tower is 125 mph. It was truly remarkable that on two days separated by almost exactly 24 hours, we received peak wind gusts of 127 mph. That of course is why I feel like there is something going on with that number… Maybe in 127 days I will win the lottery. I would be okay with that. Or maybe those numbers will win me the lottery! Who knows…?
Being outside in winds reaching 125 mph gives me a very immense appreciation and respect for our founders who recorded the 231 mph wind gust back on April 12, 1934! This mountain is an amazing place and if you are passionate for extreme weather, you have to take a winter trip up here sometime! If you want to have an even better chance to experience weather like this, become a member of the organization and volunteer for a week. Jeff and Jan are up here this week volunteering for us and they truly lucked out in terms of experiencing what makes this mountain so renowned.
Caleb Meute, Weather Observer / Meteorologist