The earth, sun, and moon

2011-03-19 18:41:45.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

Pillar and late light on the Mt Clay.

Yesterday was a fairly windy day on the summit. From 6 am until 6 pm, we had hourly winds averaging 75 mph or more and for four of those hours, winds were averaging over 90 mph, all well within a category 1 hurricane classification. At its peak we even had a guest hit 122 mph. Now, yesterdays winds weren’t that uncommon for the summit even for mid-March. Nor was it the strongest Brian or I have seen in our time here but it was still a thrill and the strongest for several of our guests that were staying up here. Most of these guests were part of an Edutrip that got a special bonus night up here due to our snow tractor not being able to make it up in the high winds. It’s not that the tractor can’t handle winds that high; it has more to do with safety. With winds that high, snow is whipped about creating a blinding white curtain when mixed with the dense spring fog. If it’s dense enough that the operator can’t see past his blade coming up, there is no way of knowing if he is safely on the road. And, if for some reason the tractor breaks down, there’s a risk of getting people down safely in the high winds. So rather than play out the worst case scenario, we decided to delay their trip down until today when conditions improved.

In addition to keeping our guests up for an extra day, it also kept me up making for an uncomfortable day of sleeping for myself. Being the night observer, I sleep during the daytime hours so that I can work my 530 pm to 530 am shift. Most of the time, sleeping during the day doesn’t phase me. The observer room has the window blackened out so light isn’t an issue and there is a white noise machine in the room so noise usually isn’t an issue either, even with a room of guests having lunch on the other side of my door. But when winds start getting that high, the sound is like a freight train. If it were a consistent speed, this wouldn’t be a problem but when it was as gusty as it was, it would go from “quiet” to loud constantly. In addition to this up and down frequency was the blowing snow hitting the window like a million fly’s trying to get out the window at the same time. And when sound wasn’t keeping me up, the change in building pressure did. Every time a deck door was open and closed, the buildings pressure would fluctuate. Since I am recovering from a cold my last off week, my ears are a bit more sensitive to these pressure changes than usual. So needless to say, most of my day spent “sleeping”, was mostly me just going through the motions of sleeping with little success.

The effects of the high winds on sleeping isn’t just a day observer thing either as I know people have the same complaints sleeping up here at night as well. But thankfully these uncomfortable days and nights are far and few between, at least for me. And after every bad weather event comes a nice weather event to talk about. Sometimes these nice weather events are lenticular clouds like we saw on St. Patrick’s Day or a lower sun pillar like we saw this afternoon. I have only seen the lower sun pillar events three times in my time here. Add this to the expected “Supermoon” tonight and it has been a fascinating 36 hours here on the summit. And with tomorrow being the first day of astronomical spring, the fun has just begun.


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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