September 21, 2006

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Winter Arrives at Mt. Washington

5 am. Temp 27, wind speed 55, wind chill 4. I stepped out onto the observation deck, admired the thin coating of crunchy snow, and was almost swept away as I moved away from the doorway. Not as much moisture in the air as last night but visibility measured in feet. Need a cup of coffee! Bee sure to check the MWO webiste as Jim has posted a couple of winter photos.

7 am. Temp 24, wind 56.6 (gusts to 67.8), wind chill 2. Guys coming down from the weather room for breakfast when they can. Egg and cheese sandwiches on the leftover biscuits or blueberry pancakes.

There are few windows in our living area, none in the kitchen, dining area, one in the livingroom, small ones high up in the bunkrooms, all iced over this morning of course. But in the kitchen, there are vents over the 6-burner gas stove, and although they're kept closed and not a hint of cold comes in around them, I can hear the wind, and it's wild.

Mid-morning...up with Ken to see the tower. This is up another flight of the circular metal stairs (like a lighthouse) where you come to a small area where air sampling is being done, and where windows can actually be opened to create a wind tunnel for other testing without having to go outside. From this level there's a straight up flight of metal steps leaading to a Hobbit-sized door and outside onto the highest accessible point on Mt. Washington. The wind was howling and I decided I could go up that last flight and look out, but just could not go out onto that open platform. Good decision. Ken brought in a piece of the rime ice that had accumulated in the hour since his previous trip up, and it was better than 3" thick!

I did get out onto to the observation deck this morning, had a hard time holding my own against the wind, but I did get some photos for you, Hannah, of the sideways ice. The auto road is closed and the Cog Railway may or may not run later today. Only one state park worker made it up this morning, in a state truck with chains. Now doesn't it feel warm where you are!

Afternoon saw clearing, with clouds scudding across the gorgeous blue sky. Wind still fierce but I walked down the service road a ways and back up the auto road, maybe 25-30 minute walk.
The Cog and the Stages were running and I got some photos of the Cog train that I really hope come out. Also took some of the incredibly delicate, feathery ice formations.

I had worried that cooking, especially baking, at this high altitude might be difficult, but there really doesn't seem to be much difference. I've made cookies, breads and pies so far and no problems. The baked goods do dry out quickly though. Actually, it's just plain dry up here, and in the depths of winter, the guys tell me that staying hydrated can be challenging.

As I write this, Ken, Mike and Sharon are watching Lord of the Rings a few feet away. Earlier we watched an old video... of all things, it was an episode of The Voyage of the Mimi which my kids saw in their science classes in elementary school. This episode, from 1984, was all about this facility, with Ken showing the boy around, getting him to help chip rime ice from some instruments, and talking about the weather extremes this mountain has seen:
the world's highest recorded wind (231 mph), the lowest temperature (-47), the confluence of three major weather and wind systems on this peak, and so much more. The neatest part... that 13-year-old kid star was Ben Affleck!

Time for bed... temp is 29, wind 50.6, chill 10. Highest gust in the past 24 hours was 81.1 mph!
Think I'll take a quick walk up to the weather room just in case the late-day cloud cover has cleared and the night sky is visible.

See you tomorrow!