One nice thing about living in New England is that it is very safe. We have no poisonous snakes, man killing predators, or natural disasters of note. When I play golf in Arizona and read rattlesnake warnings or see anti-bear spray for sale at in the pro-shop in British Columbia it always give me paws (get it?). Heck, we hardly even have to worry about lighting, like they do in Colorado where I was nearly hit playing it at the Broadmoor.
Maybe it is exactly because our ecosystem is so tame, full of cows and little mountains, that Yankees have been so proud of the abhorrent conditions atop Mt. Washington, the highest in the northeast at just 6288 feet, lass then half what the high peaks of Colorado reach, a third of the height of Kilimanjaro, less than a fourth of Everest. Yet because of its unusual position in the jet stream, and ebbing taller than anything around it, weather here runs amuck, and the non-profit Mt. Washington Observatory, a research facility on top of the mountain – one that has been notably destroyed and rebuilt thanks to Mother Nature – bears the official nickname “Home of the World’s Worst Weather.”
At least until yesterday.
Or at least until 1996, but we’ll get back to that.
There are many reasons for the claim, including the fact that hapless hikers have died of hypothermia on the little mountain, which takes less than three hours to summit, every single month of the year, even in the dog days of summer. Hurricane force winds hit the peak more than 100 days annually, along with year round snow, freezing rain, sleet and fog that rolls in without warning.
But the real claim to fame, the one that underpins the Home of the World’s worst Weather, has long been the highest recorded wind speed anywhere on the surface of the earth, an unbelievable 231 MPH, a blast that hit the summit of Mt. Washington in 1934 and has been a meteorologist’s wet dream ever since. The blast was so singular and has been atop the charts for so long, it has become known simply as “the Big Wind” in history books.
Meanwhile, almost exactly on the other side of the planet, Australia is best known for beaches, surfing, shark attacks, cute accents, beer and most of all, great golf. It is easy to argue, as I have, that Melbourne is the single best urban vacation golf spot on earth, the rest of the country is littered with great courses, the country regularly produces the game’s best pros outside the US, and the Presidents Cup will return to Royal Melbourne next year. That is the same Royal Melbourne that is now famous for being the last place Tiger Woods played – and of course won – before disappearing of the face of the earth.
They better hope the weather Down Under is better than it was in 1996.
Yesterday a scientific body known as the World Meteorological Organization finally came to the conclusion, seemingly after 14 years of intense debate and introspection, that during 1996’s Cyclone Olivia a much stronger wind hit Australia’s Barrow Island, clocking in (at least in retrospect) at 253 MPH.
Scott Henley, executive director of the Mt. Washington Observatory, told local news station WMUR that “…it feels like a kick in the gut when you lose a title like that.”
Scott, as a fellow New Englander, I feel your pain.
But it could be worse. The Aussies could have also stolen the one thing that Mt. Washington still has that they don’t, an honest to goodness Donald Ross designed golf course, extensively renovated less than three years ago, and now easily among the best in New Hampshire.
So the only remaining question is, are they going to take the sign down?