Here’s what it was like to spend the night on Mount Washington during some of the wildest weather ever recorded
By Jennifer Gray, CNN Meteorologist
Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire is known to have some of the wildest weather on the planet, and without a doubt, it takes the cake for the United States.
Located at just over 6,000 feet, it is situated in the perfect location for extreme winds and brutal cold.
When the record-breaking arctic blast came through the US on Friday, Mount Washington’s Observatory was getting the worst of it, with three people inside, witnessing it all.
“The winds were so strong that I fell over at least once that night. I was thankful that I was able to make it back to the observatory,” meteorologist and weather observer for Mount Washington Observatory, Alexis George said. “It’s not something you get used to very easily because it’s a very loud experience. It almost sounds like a freight train.”
She, along with fellow observer Francis Tarasiewicz and an intern, braved the wind and cold on top of Mount Washington inside the observatory, and were responsible for taking measurements and observations at the summit Friday night. The job is usually done once an hour but was done much more frequently Friday night due to the extreme conditions.
“So given the fact that we were close to breaking records last night, we had to go out in those conditions every 15 to 20 minutes or so,” George said.
Bundled up from head to toe, George had to venture out in some of the most extreme conditions ever recorded holding a sling psychrometer in her hand, which is the technique the observatory has used to measure weather conditions since 1932.
Their persistence paid off because they recorded a wind chill of minus 108 degrees, likely the coldest wind chill ever recorded in the US.
It is hard to know for certain, since the National Weather Service doesn’t keep track of wind chills as closely as they do temperatures. However, most meteorologists who track extreme conditions believe the minus 108 reading beats the previous record of minus 105 set in Alaska.
The previous wind chill record for Mount Washington was minus 102.7 degrees set in 2004.
It is the kind of cold not many people have ever witnessed, or ever want to witness.
“Any exposed skin, even if it’s just like a millimeter of exposed skin, sort of feels like a bee stinging you or like a low-grade sunburn, so definitely not very pleasant up here,” Tarasiewicz told CNN. “But being up here, is what we are up here for, these extreme conditions.”
Tarasiewicz and George were in the elements for about five minutes every 15 to 20 minutes. It is a dangerous job, requiring serious guts and concentration as they inched their way onto the observation deck to get weather readings.
“We’re not tethered to a rope or anything, that’s why we always have to be cautious,” George explained. “Because you can easily fall down and just blow across the observation deck if you’re not careful.”
The winds were so strong at one point during the day, they blew open the door to the observatory.
Tarasiewicz explained the scary moment on CNN Saturday morning:
“Briefly terrifying. It took about three of us or so to sort of keep the door closed, while those winds were blowing in excess of 100 miles per hour. We eventually got a new latch for it and so it’s nice and secure. We’ve got a piece of plywood as well to sort of secure it in place. So, we’re hoping that’s a good fix at least in the short term.”
George has been working at the Observatory for less than a year and realizes Friday night could be a night which may never be topped.
“Being able to experience sustained wind gusts above 100 miles per hour is a very exciting thing for me in the long run,” George recalled. “Being able to experience cold temperature of minus 47 degrees — I’ll brag about this for many years to come.”
Mount Washington Observatory is a nonprofit research and educational institution working to advance understanding of Earth’s weather and climate.
Read more about the observatory here.
Mount Washington wasn’t the only place smashing records on Saturday. Boston hit a morning low temperature of minus 10 degrees Saturday morning, breaking its previous daily record of minus 2 degrees. The weather service also tweeted it was the first double-digit negative temperature recorded since 1957.
Worcester, Massachusetts, hit minus 13 degrees, beating the previous daily record of minus 4. Providence, Rhode Island, recorded minus 9 degrees beating the previous daily record of minus 2. Hartford, Connecticut, hit minus 9 degrees, beating the previous daily record of minus 8.
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CNN Meteorologist Haley Brink contributed to this story.