John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Gusts of 109 mph nearly tore this dude apart.
New Hampshire’s Mount Washington can be a frigid nightmare. Last month, for instance, while the mercury rose above 100 in California, Washington’s peak still registered an arctic -4 degrees (a decently dismal temperature, but nothing compared to its record of -47).
Part of what makes the mountain such a beautiful place to lose toes and fingers is its famously ripping wind, which claimed the world’s natural speed record of 231 mph for more than six decades. What it’s like to battle such a hurricane-force maelstrom is well-illustrated in this footage from the Mount Washington Observatory’s Mike Dorfman, who risked turning into a flesh-colored popsicle for our entertainment during 109-mph gusts on Monday.
Dorfman, a weather observer and IT specialist at the observatory, gives this account of the peak’s punishing blasts:
It’s really impossible to imagine the winds on the summit without experiencing them firsthand. The Sherman Adams building has 3 foot thick concrete walls and 3 layers of bullet-resistant glass windows. Even with this protection, the constant, dull roar of the wind is ever-present in the Observatory’s Weather Room. Heading up to the tower to deice every hour is an adventure; the enclosed parapet-like tower roars like the sound of a jet engine as a plane is taking off, and exiting the top door of the parapet is like opening up the window of that ascending jet....
Wind on the summit is an experience that you can’t just describe to understand. It makes you fully appreciate that air is in fact a fluid and not empty space. It is really impossible to safely face down hundred-mile-per-hour winds almost anywhere else; you’d either be risking your life trying to hike into them (I was exhausted after several minutes of playing in the wind) or risking your life in a hurricane, where flying debris and shrapnel poses a huge threat.