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Remember, a few years ago, when our neighbor to the west, New Hampshire, decided to sue the State of Maine over where the Maine-New Hampshire border really was? I suggested at the time on my weekend talk show on WGAN that we settle the dispute by just giving New Hampshire all of York County in exchange for a few hundred-thousand acres in the White Mountains, including, of course, Mount Washington and a few of the Presidential Peaks. My suggested compromise became mute when the Supreme Court rolled-up the law suit up and threw it out.
But it would be nice if Maine could figure out a way to trade some of our land for Mount Washington and a few lesser peaks.
Our place in the Oxford Hills is about an hour from New England’s highest mountain, which is just as close as I want to get, considering the extreme weather that occurs on it from time-to-time.
In fact, I often think of Washington’s mountain when our weather conditions – over here in the east– get extreme. In fact, for over 60 years, Mount Washington held the world record for the highest wind velocity ever recorded on our little planet.
The date was April 12, 1934, when the workers at the observatory were expecting a typical April day atop Mount Washington, whatever “typical” might mean up there. Normally, the rest of us here in New England welcome the warm days of early spring, but winter keeps a hold of the high peaks of New Hampshire's Presidential Range well into May in most years.
The staff at the Mount Washington Observatory, including Salvatore Pagliuca, Alex McKenzie and Wendell Stephenson managed, to make it through their second full winter on the mountain and were anxiously awaiting the coming of spring, just like everyone else in New Hampshire.
But before the day was over, those men would not only get another severe taste of winter, they would be a part of one of the most intense storms in recorded history. On this April Tuesday, a weak storm system located over the western Great Lakes was slowly approaching New England. In addition, another batch of energy was located off the coast of North Carolina. Even more importantly, a huge ridge of high pressure was in place over eastern Canada and the northern Atlantic. On the summit of Mount Washington, April 12 was uneventful. But before the day was done, their official instruments would record a sustained wind velocity of 231 mph – the highest ever recorded.
I’ve often tried to imagine what a 231 mph wind is like. In order to read their instruments two of the observatory staffers had to go outside and climb a ladder to do the reading.
I’ve been sailing in what are described as “stiff winds” and they are strong enough to capsize a sailboat. I’m guessing a 231 mile wind could destroy almost any vessel.
In case you’re wondering, Mount Washington no longer holds the record it held for over sixty years. On January 22, 1996 during, tropical storm Olivia a wind velocity of 253 mph was measured on Barrow Island, Australia.
Since we don’t have cyclones here in New England there’s probably little chance of breaking that new record. We can hope but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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