January is over and for the east coast it was filled with cold temperatures and several inches of White Christmas weather. I have grown over the years to tire of winter weather very quickly. After a day of frolicking in the snow and freezing my nose together with every breath, I am ready for spring and the flowers that reflect the renewal of the warmer season.
I have the responsibility in my school system to call off school due to inclement weather and during January my school in Ohio cancelled school twice and operated on a two-hour delay schedule on two additional dates. The wind-chill factor on those days was well below zero. For the protection of the students that have to stand at a bus stop and for teens driving in the darkness of early morning, the hours allow the sun to wake up and provide better visibility and a rise in temperature.
When I step outside and get blasted by a shot of arctic air, my mind almost always runs to Mount Washington and the weather that confronts the Whites in New Hampshire on a daily basis. When I climbed Mount Washington during my thru-hike in 2014 it was a beautiful day with blue skies dotted with white cumulus clouds. The temperature that August 26th day was a low of 49 degrees and a high of 61. The cool breeze that day was only 23 mph with gusts up to 41. I really enjoyed the climb, the view, and the weather.
January is a little different on the summit. The average high this January was 15 degrees and the average low was 0.8 degrees above zero. The hottest day on top of Mount Washington was 35 degrees but the low was a chilly -22 degrees (no wind-chill factor considered). The average wind speed during the month was 44.5 mph and the fastest recorded wind was 127 mph. This makes Ohio seem pretty mild. The total snow and ice for the month was 40.6 inches!
If you think this sounds brutal, the January of 2015 was even more severe: the average high was 11.2 degrees with the hottest day rising to 39 degrees; the average low temperature for the month was -8.9 degrees with the coldest day plummeting to -34 degrees; there was 63 inches of snow and ice; the wind speed averaged 49.1 mph and the fastest day hit 129 mph.
Okay, that’s two pretty cold winters in a row. I went back seven years and came to the conclusion that Mount Washington is a place of consistently cold January’s. Over the past seven years (2010 – 2016) the average high temperature was 13.8 degrees; the average low temperature was -2.7 with an average snow and ice fall of 38.9 inches. The wind is always brisk on the summit with the average wind speed during the month of January of 44.8 mph and the fastest day of wind speed averaging 122 mph.
Climbing up the south side of the mountain from the Lake of the Clouds there is a big yellow sign that tries to communicate the sobriety of the dangers ahead. The sign reads, “Stop. The area ahead has the worst weather in America. Many have died there from exposure, even in the summer. Turn back now if the weather is bad.” If the weather is favorable or if you ignore the sign and arrive at the summit another sign posted on the side of the weather station states, “The highest wind ever observed by man was recorded here. From 1932 to 1937 the Mt. Washington Observatory was operated in the summit stage office then occupying this site. In a great storm April 12, 1934 the crews instruments measured a wind velocity of 231 miles per hour.”
The next time the temperatures begin to drop or the cold wind stings your face, count your blessings that your house was not built on top of Mount Washington!