The Groundhog Day Storm affected our off week!

2011-02-03 22:14:47.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

The summits shadow, not the Groundhogs.

On the summit, we have a button from “Staples” that, when you press it, says “That was easy!” That button pretty much summarizes today’s shift change. But leading up to today’s shift change was anything but easy, at least for two of us during our off week. To those unfamiliar with our schedules, we typically stay on the summit for eight days from one Wednesday to the following Wednesday. Our six days off from the summit allows us to do whatever we like. Some of us work part time but most of us treat those six days off like most people treat time off from work; travel, rest, play, etc. So this past week off, Mike F. and I decided to travel to separate destinations; Mike to Portland, OR and myself to San Antonio, TX.

Last Wednesday/Thursdays storm delayed the start of Mike F’s trip while I was able to escape with ease. Eventually, we both got to our destinations and enjoyed everything we could in the limited time we had. Now, being a forecaster, weather is always on my mind. While I was enjoying temperatures in the 70s and 80s that Texas was providing in the middle of winter, my attention started drifting back towards New England for Tuesday/Wednesday when yet another large low was showing up in the models. As the days slowly crept up, the storm kept getting worst and worst in the models. And by Monday, several forecast discussions were talking about it being one of the largest lows that North America had seen in decades. And that is when I started to slightly worry; and I wasn’t alone.

Monday, I started exchanging calls from the shift on duty about moving shift change. At first, shift change was going to be moved up to Tuesday. With two of us out of state, this seemed unlikely but I looked into flights anyway. But by the time I started to look, the flights still available were too costly or were already sold out with like minded people trying to get a jump on the storm. So we all agreed that a Thursday shift change looked like the better option since Wednesday would probably be a no go even if one or both of us got back in time.

Things for me started fine on Tuesday but by the time I hit Baltimore (BWI), things started to go downhill. Almost all flights out were cancelled except for one flight heading to Providence (PVD). So I jumped on it even though it would put me hundreds of miles away from my car at Manchester (MHT). Before taking off, I texted Mike F about the situation in the Northeast and discovered he was already stranded in Denver, CO. When I landed, I met a group of four individuals traveling north to MHT and decided to join them. We landed at PVD at around 130 pm but didn’t get to MHT until 7 pm. We parted ways and I started my slow crawl northward to home. My top speed home was 25-35 mph due to ice. There were accidents galore two of which I stopped to help with utilizing my Wilderness First Aid skills and my first aid kit in my car. Eventually I got home at 1 am so if all else failed, we at least had two observers (Brian and I) that could head up Thursday for shift change if it came down to it since that is the bare minimum we need up here to keep things running.

I can’t relay all of Mike’s experiences but he finally caught a flight to Boston late Wednesday only to discover the bus back to his car in Dover, NH wasn’t operating until Thursday morning due to the storm. Although delayed today, he was able to drive northward and our crew of three et al were able to head up the road together. Apart from having to stop and clear our ARVP sensors, the trip was smooth and quick under blue bird skies. Quite a departure from the grey and snowy skies that blanketed the Northeast just 24 hours prior and the chaos it caused for our crew during our off week. And looking ahead, yet another strong low is showing up in the models for the middle of next week. So we will be keeping our eye on that and keeping our fingers crossed that the other crew will have a safe trip to the base and the summit next week.


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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