Buildings on the summit
Hi everyone! I was wondering how the buildings are constructed to withstand such intense and sustained winds on the summit. I was surprised when I first saw the buildings - they look pretty conventional, and not like the bunkers I expected. The Tower looks very sturdy, but how do the windows, shingles (I think - they look like shingles around the outside of it), antennas, and protuberances stand up to such a relentless pounding of wind? Does anything ever get blown off or damaged? What was the most frightening experience you guys have had on the summit? Thanks, and have fun in this low pressure system that's moving through today!
Those are shingles on the side of the tower and I am pretty sure they are purely decorative. As with any shingles I'm sure some come loose, but remember these shingles are almost vertical so it's very hard for the wind to get underneath and blow them off. During the most severe winds they are usually coated in rime ice so that helps hold them in place too.
Every so often something does break on the tower or the other buildings. Unlike down in the valleys there is no debris flying around in the wind. That is what causes the most damage during a wind storm. Neighbor's chair goes flying through your window....wind gets inside your house and starts lifting the roof off...roof flies away and walls soon follow. That chain of events just doesn't happen on the summit.
Ice falling off the larger antennas is the largest source of debris. I can't speak for the scariest event on the summit, but many would agree it occurs when large chunks of ice begin flying off the antennas. Not rime, but solid water ice that bombards the summit area during a warm spell.
Far less dramatic, but equally as heart-stopping is the sound the building makes during very cold weather. As the re-inforcing steel and concrete contract at different rates loud "explosions" can jolt you from your desk.
Oh, lightning and fires are pretty scary thoughts too.
An emergency exit was recently installed in the Sherman Adams building. Workers had to cut through two feet of concrete; not the porous kind they make cement blocks out of, this stuff is extremely dense. And because the roof is at ground level, the mountain itself reinforces the building.
The older buildings like Yankee and the Stage Office don't look like much, but like Bill says, thick coats of ice help.
In early April 1934 there was a significant riming event. That's why April 12th is world record wind day and not the day the observatory blew away.