Rob Burbank's Outdoors with the AMC: Watch out for wind-toppled trees on trails in the Whites

By ROB BURBANK December 01. 2017 7:04PM


It was mighty difficult to get from Point A to Point B in the White Mountains region back on October 30 due to multiple road closures caused by high water, flooded roads, and fallen trees.

The power of wind and rain that lashed the area overnight on the 29th and 30th turned normally shallow streams into roiling torrents and knocked tall trees onto power lines, causing electrical outages.

Appalachian Mountain Club weather observers reported that the storm brought more than five inches of rain and winds up to 60 mph to Pinkham Notch.

The Mount Washington Observatory recorded 2.05 inches of precipitation on the summit on Oct. 29 and 4.32 inches on Oct. 30. Winds on those two days were clocked at 124 mph and 133 mph, respectively.

Things in the woods were also chaotic, with AMC trail workers reporting 58 trees down on the Mt. Willard Trail in Crawford Notch and more than 50 blow-downs at the Nauman Tent Site.

“As stewards of the trail we knew what we had to do; clear the way,” wrote AMC Campsite Programs and Conservation Manager Joe Roman in a recent AMC Trails Blog post.

“With nearly all of the AMC seasonal employees gone for the fall, this responsibility fell on the few of us who were still left. With freshly sharpened axes and chainsaws we started tackling the reported damaged areas. The amount of blown down trees and trail erosion rivaled that of Hurricane Irene in 2011.”

Nauman has been cleared and the site is open for use. Also, wrote Roman on Nov. 20, “As of now, the [Mt.] Willard Trail, Avalon to the Appalachian Trail, 19 Mile [Brook Trail], the majority of Carter Dome, and the Crawford Path have all been cleared. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we tackle the clean-up of this severe storm.”

The White Mountain National Forest website notes that other trails remained closed or impassable due to storm damage, and forest officials advised visitors to use caution. “Be aware of potential hazards in the area and above you,” they said in a news release. Updates on conditions were being posted to the website at www.fs.usda.gov/whitemountain. Visitors can report trail damage by calling 536-6100.

Weather stations typically use anemometers to measure wind speed, but another way to gauge how fast the wind is blowing is by employing the Beaufort Wind Scale, developed by British Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort in 1805. The scale estimates wind speed on land and at sea by relying on visual observations. When light flags are extended and leaves and small twigs on trees are constantly moving, winds are rated at 8 to 12 mph, and considered a “gentle breeze,” for instance.

The scale includes 12 categories for wind speed, ranging from calm to hurricane force. According to the scale, winds of 55 mph or greater are capable of uprooting trees.

The National Weather Service posts the Beaufort Scale at www.weather.gov/mfl/beaufort.

Rob Burbank is director of media and public affairs for the Appalachian Mountain Club (outdoors.org) in Pinkham Notch. His column appears monthly in the New Hampshire Sunday News.


WeatherHikingOutdoors with the AMC

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