At Grandfather Mountain, records aren’t broken; they’re blown away.
At around midnight Feb. 25, the nonprofit nature park’s weather recording station at the Mile High Swinging Bridge registered a three-second gust of 124 miles per hour, breaking the previous record of 121.3 mph, recorded Feb. 13.
In addition, near 2 a.m., the station detected a gust of 122.3 mph. Conditions at the bridge remained breezy Monday morning, with a sustained wind speed of 90.8 mph recorded around 4 a.m., and gusts as high as 118.7 mph clocked at 7 a.m.
In all, starting late Sunday evening, the mountain saw 16 consecutive hours of gusts higher than 100 mph.
And despite these hurricane-force winds, the park remains intact.
“While trees are down across the High Country, there is no damage to the trees and other plants at the ridgeline of the mountain — where wind speeds were at their highest,” said Amy Renfranz, director of education for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the park. “This just goes to prove that the forest here is well adapted to extremes and is much more similar to a Canadian-zone ecosystem than to the South.”
But the same can’t always be said for weather-recording equipment.
“The folks at the scientific firm where we purchase our meteorological equipment were stunned a few weeks ago when we sent in a thermometer/hygrometer for repair,” Renfranz said. “They use the same sensor all across the world and had never seen one in such bad shape. We have the humidity of a rain forest and the winds of the Arctic. It’s a crazy place to be.”
In comparison, Mt. Mitchell’s highest three-second gust during the same timeframe came in at 68.3 mph, according to data from the N.C. Climate Office.
The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation records and reports data in three different ways:
- The park maintains an automated weather station at the top of the Mile High Swinging Bridge. The N.C. Climate Office assists the foundation in calibrating the machines and ensuring overall accuracy of data.
- Grandfather Mountain has been an active member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Cooperative Observer Program since 1955 by reporting daily temperature, precipitation and weather events from a location near the Mile High Swinging Bridge.
- Park naturalists also record and report daily precipitation totals from the Nature Museum and Entrance Gate to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS).
With rare exceptions, the temperature will be 10 to 20 degrees cooler at Grandfather Mountain than in the flatlands below. The average rate is 2.2 degrees per 1,000 feet, meaning that for each thousand feet gained, the air is 2.2. degrees cooler.
For more information on Grandfather Mountain’s weather or to access current conditions, click here.
The not-for-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call 800-468-7325.