North Conway, NH – February 26, 2019 – Mount Washington Observatory staff and guests experienced an epic day of wind on the summit on Monday, February 25, 2019. They gathered in the non-profit’s legendary weather room with all eyes pegged to the Hays Chart* eager to see how fast the winds would blow as it topped out at 171 miles per hour at 6:35pm.
Taylor Regan, Weather Observer and Research Specialist recounts the experience, “everyone gathered around the Hays Chart watching with bated breath as the ink climbed higher up the paper wheel. The building rumbled with the force of what seemed like several freight trains, clueing us in to the next possible peak. 158…164…171! A new February record gust!,” said Regan, “Congratulations were exchanged as if we, personally, had achieved something great, simply by bearing witness to the raging storm.”
“It was an incredible, slightly frightening experience to witness the power of this storm,” said Tom Padham – Weather Observer and Education Specialist. “This storm was on a different level than any I had experienced in my 6 years here. The windows vigorously flexed back and forth in their casings, the water in our plumbing was swishing back and forth. It was an experience I will never forget!”
This 171 mph gust beats the previous February record of 166 mph, set in 1972, and now ranks as the 8th windiest day recorded on the summit of Mount Washington, going by peak wind gusts, and 6th windiest day, going by 24-hour average.
In addition to the powerful gust the summit also experienced a 24-hour average at 110 mph with the highest hourly average being 138 mph. To give some perspective of the overall event, a category 4 hurricane has sustained winds at 130-156 mph.
Winds are recorded with a pitot tube anemometer, normally used to measure aircraft speed, but modified to accurately measure winds blowing by Mount Washington. “We were fortunate enough to have not one but two working pitot anemometers for this storm. Our brand new Next Generation Anemometer got a great first test, and held up extremely well during an incredible wind storm, ” noted Keith Garrett, Director of IT.
The mountain top weather station on the summit of Mount Washington was established in 1932 by founders Bob Monahan, Sal Pagliuca, Alex McKenzie, and Joe Dodge, with the mission to advance understanding of weather and climate on Mount Washington.
Later touted as “The Home of the World’s Worst Weather” and renown for recording the highest wind speed ever observed by man at 231 mph on April 12, 1934, the Observatory continues to fulfill and expand upon this mission.
On April 12, 2019 the Mount Washington Observatory will be celebrating its 85th anniversary of the “Big Wind” featuring a presentation from Director of Research Dr. Eric Kelsey and Weather Observer/Research Specialist Taylor Regan at an Open House event at the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway, N.H.
*The Hays Chart is an analog windspeed recorder used as a backup system, and also visual tool to measure the wind. This system has been in place on the summit since the 1940s, with paper charts changed each day at midnight. The chart rotates over the course of the day, and the pen needle on the chart is forced outwards depending on the speed of the wind, with the outer edge of the chart corresponding to roughly 140 mph. The system is connected to the pitot tube on top of the tower, with units on the chart corresponding to inches of water, as the tubing formerly forced a column of water corresponding to the wind speed value.