Mt Washington New Hampshire -231 mph record wind in 1934

Posted By on April 12, 2016

Did you know that "on this day" in 1934 in aWeatherStationMtWashington small weather station (chained to the ground) atop of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire measured record setting winds speeds of 231 mph? Wow!

That record held until Cyclone Olivia was recorded at 253 mph wind gusts on Barrow Island in Australia in 1996. I’m not sure how one survives in that kind of wind … but even more shockingly is  the wind speeds "exceed 100 mph on one of every three days" during  winter on Mt. Washington; it is known as "Home of the World’s Worst Weather."

MtWashingtonWindsm

The mountain sits at the convergence of three storm tracks from the Atlantic Ocean to the south, the southwest and the northwest. Westerly winds accelerate as they race up the mountainside.  And low pressure systems develop along the warmer ocean in winter and collide with the colder Northeast air, causing storms to develop.

Mt._Washington_chained_building

Because of its severe weather, Mt. Washington is known as ‘the most dangerous small mountain in the world.’ On that April day in 1934, it was indeed dangerous for the five men hunkered down in the observatory.

The 2-year-old observatory was staffed by Salvatore Pagliuca, Alex McKenzie and Wendell Stephenson. They had two guests, Arthur Griffin and George Leslie. The small building was chained to the ground.

When the men went to bed on the night of April 11, pressure was falling and winds were increasing rapidly to 136 mph. By the next morning it was obvious they were in the middle of a super-hurricane. Stephenson checked the instrument that recorded the wind speed and saw it was wrong. That meant the anemometer was iced over.

Stephenson suited up, grabbed a club and opened the door. The wind knocked him down. With the wind at his back, he climbed the ladder, clubbed the anemometer dozens of times and cleared the ice — an incredibly difficult and dangerous task. Then he went back into the station and checked the recorder. It showed a windspeed of 150 mph.

The men recorded frequent values of 220 mph, with occasional gusts of 229 mph. Then, at 1:21 pm on April 12, 1934, the extreme value of 231 mph out of the southeast was recorded.

To experience a similar wind, wrote one observer, you’d have to poke your head out of a 747 on takeoff.

The record held until 2010, when a review of climate data turned up a 253 mph gust on Barrow Island in Australia during Cyclone Olivia in 1996.

Link from New England Historical Society

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