Thunder oh Thunder

2010-07-17 23:09:43.000 – Mike Carmon,  Staff Meteorologist

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Sometimes life gives you subtle reminders. Then there are the ones that bludgeon you over the head. There was nothing subtle about tonight.

As I lamented yesterday, I have been longing for a thunderstorm, not just for enjoyment sake, but also to put a little confidence back into my forecasting. My patience was rewarded earlier tonight.

I went outdoors for my 8:45 EST observation, and noticed a bit of lightning well off to the west. I hadn’t peered at the radar before going outside, so the subtle show caught me a bit off-guard. I came back inside to check the radar, and noticed a monster storm, showing some supercell characteristics, heading directly for the summit! After jumping up and down in the style of a school girl for a few seconds, I rushed downstairs in a giddy state to spread the good news to my fellow weather nerds.

We all proceeded upstairs into the weather room to catch a glimpse of this spectacle that was evolving into a spectacular feast for the eyes. With visibility over 30 miles, we observed as the impressive thunderstorm marched ever closer to our mountaintop location. One by one, the lights of cities to our west were swallowed up by the intense rain and hail descending from the towering cumulonimbus monsters. All the while, lightning would continuously morph nighttime into daytime for a fleeting few seconds, with a plethora of cloud-to-ground strikes visible to us.

Finally, all that remained in view were the lights of the Mount Washington Hotel, located a scant 9 miles west of Mt Washington. Lightning had become intense and nearly non-stop, creating a display unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. The storm devoured the lights of the hotel, and rain began to fall. It was only a few drops at first, but quickly began to fall in sheets as hail mixed in. Just as we realized ‘oh…that’s hail,’ the winds jumped abruptly and tremendously as a gust front (the leading edge of cold air flowing outward from a thunderstorm) charged through. I ran over to the Hays Chart, and saw a significant spike in the trace. Wind speeds that were averaging approximately 35 mph skyrocketed to 83 mph in a matter of seconds! This only lasted a minute or so, as the gust front passed, the hail ceased, and the rain tapered off a bit. But the lightning display continued, which harbored 3 direct strikes to the summit!

So, as I look back to last night, I am extremely elated that I included ‘a slight chance of thunderstorms early’ in my forecast for tonight. But this awe-inspiring show was also a palpable reminder as to why I am in this profession in the first place, and why I call the summit home.

 

Mike Carmon,  Staff Meteorologist

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