09:14 Sun Feb 10, 2019
An Account of the 148 mph Storm
The past 36 hours on the summit were an amazing show of the power of nature, and one that I’ll personally remember for a lifetime. Winds topped 148 mph at approximately 6:50 AM on February 9th, 2019, shattering my previous personal record of 133 mph! The storm was by far the most impressive wind event I’ve witnessed in my 6 years on the summit, here’s some more details on what it was like to be up here during the storm.
Surprisingly, I slept very well despite the fact that winds were sustained over 100 mph gusting frequently to 120 mph during the predawn hours. The westerly direction of the wind, combined with our 3 foot thick concrete walls, helped to really dampen the sound of the wind. It was a noticeable hum for sure, but downstairs (roughly 5 feet underground) the wind honestly didn’t sound too different from other storms I’ve been here for. Once I awoke and headed upstairs it became much more apparent just how windy it already was.
I was on duty for the morning observations (5:45 AM-10:45 AM) and arrived in the office to relieve night observer Ryan Knapp. We went over how the icing conditions were, and to my surprise they weren’t so bad (roughly an inch per hour). Due to the incredible force of the wind climbing into the top of the parapet was not necessary, rime could be blasted off the tower with just a small rattle at the base of each post on top of the tower. This was an immense relief, as it meant I could be mostly sheltered from the full force of the winds while deicing. It still wasn’t a walk in the park though!
For the 6:45 AM observation I headed to the top of the tower to deice once more. We attempt to keep a few communications antennas mostly ice free in addition to the anemometers, and I hadn’t gotten a chance to knock ice off the north facing antenna: the one directly into the wind. Even though I was sheltered from shoulder height down, the force and sound of the wind was incredible, as it was now gusting in excess of 140 mph at times. It took nearly all of my strength to hold the rubber mallet steady and not have it fly out of my hands as I lightly tapped the antenna and watched the ice blast by. After things were finally clear I headed back inside to submit the observation data. Shortly after being safely back inside we hit our peak of 148 mph! Taylor and Chloe were nearly jumping up and down with excitement, as this was a new personal high for all of us and a little above even what we hoped to witness.
This really was an incredible event and puts how special this place is into perspective. Being here for nearly 150 mph winds, I still can’t really fathom the power of a 231 mph gust and what it must have been like for the weather observers that fateful day. The windows here were flexing back and forth during the worst of the storm, almost as if they had a heartbeat of their own. I would start getting very uneasy about being near any windows up here in winds above 160 mph or so, and I’m sure we’d start seeing at least minor damage to the building in winds that high. To be able to accurately measure a wind of that magnitude is nothing short of amazing. This storm brought me a greater respect for this place and the people that have worked up here. Thank you to all those that support our work!
Hays Chart from February 9th, 2019 with the peak gust of 148 mph. Highest 1-hour average winds were 116 mph, with a 1-minute average of 127 mph. A day we won't soon forget!
Thomas Padham, Weather Observer/Education Specialist