What an evening we had yesterday! For my first real storm/wind event of my MWOBS career I’d say I got an exciting one! As Tropical Storm Isaias (ees-ah-EE-ahs) raced up the eastern seaboard these past few days it brought heavy rain and serious winds to much of the region including a record breaking wind gust to the summit.
During the afternoon hours leading up to the closest passage of the storm, the other observers and I patiently waited and monitored the progress as Isaias battered its way through southern New England. I wondered what my new personal wind record would be as it was previously just barely over hurricane force at 77 mph, and forecasts were suggesting triple digits. As the day went on the winds started ramping up and bands of showers moved into the area. I could sense the growing excitement in the room as we discussed our peak wind guesses for the night, and communicated with relatives to our south where tornado warnings were popping up here and there. Since I am so new to how different summit weather is compared to the valley I did not know how to base my guess, so I went in between the other observers at 121 mph.
The storm drew closer to us as we neared the evening hours, with the center track being west of the summit, traveling north through the middle of Vermont. Winds quickly climbed to 70, 80, then 90 mph smashing through my personal record and amazing me with the rate of increase in speeds due to Isaias being such a fast mover. During the 6 o’clock hour we crested 100 mph, and I was able to go outside and experience the mayhem. It was a humbling experience being pushed around, although I was told the southeast winds we were experiencing are generally less menacing out on the observation deck since we are situated on the northwest side of the summit. A short while later a gust of 123 mph made quite the roar and my guess was looking A-OK at that point. At about the same time, heavier bands of rain started passing through which dumped an appreciable amount of rain in a short period. I was downstairs cooking some dinner when suddenly the stove vent water drain bottle overflowed all over the counter, with the feed tube having a steady stream of water exiting it. My engineering mind rushed to find some hose so that the drain could feed right to the sink. Normally the drain bottle could be emptied every once in a while but the heavy rain bands overwhelmed the system at the time. I was happy to be able to find a solution to the problem quickly or the bottle would have had to be emptied every 5 minutes it seemed, which would have taken away my opportunity to storm watch with the crew!
The winds started to decrease a bit, with the peak gust still remaining at 123 and it looked like it was trending downwards. My guess seemed to still be holding up well! Was the heaviest part of the storm over? Nearing the 8 o’clock hour David Decou, our shift night observer, came in from taking an observation and said it felt like the winds were getting stronger again. Our usual wind speed recording device, the famous hays chart, was unfortunately not in service so sadly we could not watch the red ink line to observe the trends. Luckily, we were able to pull up a computer program that mimics the hays chart so we had the next best thing to view and check the spikes from strong gusts. Suddenly at 8PM sharp, the chart spiked showing a gust of 147 mph! The wind database was cross referenced and sure enough, it showed a peak gust of 146.7 mph from the southeast! Our crew celebrated the feat as it set all of our personal records and we then shared the news with the state park crew who also had a few new personal records set. We soon discovered that besides personal records, it also set a new all-time wind record for the month of August! The previous record was 142 mph set back in August of 1954.
My final thoughts on my first storm is just wow. The thrill and excitement being up here, monitoring the weather and experiencing the power of nature first hand is incredible. I look forward to many more storms, especially those with snow involved (too early for this?). Definitely glad to have nearly doubled my record, and experienced 100+ mph winds but I have a feeling 147 will probably hold for a bit, who knows.
If you enjoy learning more about the weather and the Mount Washington Observatory consider joining us on Tuesday for our Second Science In The Mountains program on Thunderstorms, Lightning & Lightning Safety. To learn more and sign up for the virtual presentation visit this link below:
Sam Robinson, Weather Observer/Engineer