What a Week!

2018-05-06 13:25:15.000 – Tom Padham, Weather Observer/Education Specialist


What a week it’s been so far on the summit, with basically all four season’s worth of weather and more! On our way up to the summit last Wednesday we were able to take a photo next to the newly-cleared out wall of snow on the Cragway section of the road. Although we had several big melt outs this winter season, recent heavy snow in April lead to a still impressive 18+ foot wall of snow! Since then warm temperatures and the higher May sun angle have led to plenty of melting, with only patches of snow visible from the summit and the Mount Washington Auto Road should be open for the season within the next few weeks.

 Our shift (Sarah, Taylor, Tom, Ryan L-R) at the snow wall last Wednesday

Friday our next exciting event of the week occurred as a powerful storm system tracked through the Saint Lawrence River Valley. Severe thunderstorms during the late afternoon in Vermont and New York eventually made their way to the White Mountains by the evening, with several direct lightning strikes, small hail, and 120 mph winds. As if winds of this strength weren’t enough, shortly after midnight winds reached an even more impressive 130 mph. These are winds rarely observed on the summit in May, with 135 mph winds in May 1994 being the last time we’ve seen winds stronger than this system. By Saturday morning we also had dropped into the lower 20s°F, resulting in some rime ice and a return to a more wintry-looking scene.

Saturday, May 5th Hays Chart showing our peak gust of 130 mph just after midnight 

The cherry on top so far for the overall experience this shift was the aurora borealis (northern lights) seen last night. Night observer Ryan Knapp was able to capture some great shots before the clouds rolled in around midnight. It had been roughly 6 months since we’d last observed the northern lights on the summit, and it just so happened to be on a week when so much else was going on.

Taking in last night’s aurora 

Looking ahead we’ve got a little bit more of a quiet weather pattern for the next few days, which is actually great because we haven’t seen some nice weather since Wednesday. With all of the nice weather, observer Taylor was able to open up the submarine door at the bottom of the tower, which is usually encased in snow and ice all winter. I’m personally looking forward to being able to do some outdoor work the next few days; including some spring cleaning before our summer season starts up in just a few short weeks!

This open door is a sign that summer is just around the corner! 


Tom Padham, Weather Observer/Education Specialist

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