Where can you find the fastest winds on earth? Try the Mount Washington Observatory, recorded 85 years ago today.
On this day 85 years ago, the fastest wind speed was officially recorded at the Mount Washington Observatory. The day before, things on top of the mountain were typical, but a storm system was brewing over the Great Lakes and preparing to head towards New Hampshire. Meanwhile, another storm was moving up from North Carolina while a high-pressure system was sweeping down from Canada. Salvatore Pagliuca, Alex McKenzie and Wendell Stephenson, the crew manning the fledgling observatory, had no idea what was about to come. In the logs, Pagliuca wrote of the day, “Hardly did we realize as we were enjoying a fine view of the Atlantic Ocean that we were to experience the next 48 hours as one of the worst storms ever recorded.”
By late afternoon of the 11th, the clear skies were covered with a thick cover of dark clouds. High pressure was coming from the north and east while low pressure surged in from the west. This kind of tense pressure gradient causes air to quickly shift. The wind was already starting to pick up. And as the crew headed for bed, they were already above hurricane strength. At 4:00 a.m., the anemometer (the device used to record wind speed) was reading only 105 mph, meaning that ice had built up around the mechanism and would have to be knocked off for an accurate reading. Stephenson grabbed a club and climbed a ladder up the side of the building to clear the anemometer, which was now recording over 150 mph. Shortly after, the storm from the Great Lakes arrived, adding to the wind and dumping snow. At 1:21 p.m., the team recorded a speed of 231 mph!