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January 5, 2009

And you thought Dec. 31 was windy ...

Sure, there were some pretty brisk winds in Maryland on New Year's Eve. They forced the postponement of the fireworks at the Inner Harbor.

NOAA Photo LibraryBut the peak gust at BWI was 51 mph. Imagine a gust to 132 mph, and average winds above 90 mph. That's what they recorded on top of Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Here's how Mike Clark, the blogger at the Mt. Washington Observatory described it:

"Well, perhaps windy is an understatement. For 21 hours yesterday, a wind gust of at least 100 mph was recorded with the peak for the day being 132 mph. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that for 9 hours, the average wind speed for those hours exceeded 100 mph with a peak hourly average wind speed for the day of 111 mph.

"Remember, that is not a wind gust, that is an average wind speed for an entire hour. The average wind speed for the entire day was 92.3 mph. That average would have probably been 100 mph if winds hadn't diminished to around 70 mph for the last 3 hours of the day. Also impressive was the overall gustiness of the wind, or the difference between peaks and lulls. For most of the day, winds would lull to around 40-60 mph and then gust over 120 mph in mere seconds."

NOTE: The world's highest recorded surface wind speed was clocked at the observatory on April 12, 1934 - an astonishing 231 mph.

"It was also darn cold yesterday, although not record breaking. We reached a low for the day of 27 below zero sometime between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. Temperatures for a good portion of the day remained near 20 below, making for wind chills of 60-80 below zero. Because of this, nobody from the staff went outside yesterday with any skin exposed.

"In those kind of wind chills, exposed skin will freeze and become frostbitten in a minute or two. We also did not venture very far from the building, even to do our hourly observations. Being fully exposed to winds that are that high and especially that gusty will very quickly take you off of your feet and slide you to the other side of the deck. Once that has happened, pretty much your only option is to crawl back to the door. Even though that sounds simple, in conditions like that it can take 5-10 minutes or even more. Additionally, all it takes is one small mishap, such as losing a glove or your goggles, and you're in big trouble.

"Out of the 2 years of non-consecutive time I have spent working on this mountain, yesterday [Dec.31] was quite possibly the overall most extreme day I have experienced. It was not quite the highest wind gust however. That was 137 mph back in February of 2006. I don't recall the winds with that storm being quite so gusty, however the temperatures were even colder."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: By the numbers

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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