Mount Washington celebrates 90 years since historic 231 mph gust with 'Big Wind Day'

"Big Wind Day" is celebrated every April 12th to commemorate the anniversary of what was the world’s strongest measured wind.

MOUNT WASHINGTON OBSERVATORY, N.H. — There aren’t many places in the world where a 109 mph wind gust still ends up a mere 122 mph short of the daily record, but this is no ordinary place.

Happy "Big Wind Day," celebrated every April 12th to commemorate the anniversary of what was the world’s strongest measured wind gust for decades. Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire clocked an incredible gust of 231 mph on April 12, 1934.

Mount Washington is "only" at 6,300 feet — paling in comparison to some of the other mountain peaks in the West, but due to upslope winds and a wind tunnel effect through the high peaks, seeing winds that are more than 50-100 mph higher than lower elevations is common at the Mount Washington Observatory.


Even Friday, the 90th anniversary of the Big Wind, gusts reached 109 mph early in the morning as a storm system approached the Northeast.

Current Conditions at Mt. Washington
(FOX Weather)


The nonprofit observatory is a research station dedicated to weather and climate data. Located at the highest summit in the northeastern U.S., the extreme weather conditions offer plenty of weather data and challenges for the brave people who live and work there.

Weather observers occupy the weather station 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, working week-long shifts. During the winter, observers use a Snowcat to take the Mount Washington Auto Road to reach the summit. Rime ice covers everything on the summit and is one of the wintry weather hazards weather observers have to deal with during their shifts.

 "It's snowy, it's icy. It's windy just like it usually is in the fall here on the highest summit in the Northeast," Alexandra Branton, a Mount Washington Observatory weather observer, told FOX Weather in an interview in 2022.

Observers go outside every hour in extreme temperatures and intense winds because the weather station is not automated like many others around the world, due to icing and high winds.

"We go all in no matter the weather conditions," Branton said. "Whether the wind is blowing 100 miles per hour, whether it's heavy snow. The only time we don't go outside is if it's lightning."

Mount Washington now holds the national record for the lowest recorded wind chill when a 90 mph wind blew as the temperature dropped to -47 degrees, making for a bone-freezing wind chill of -108 degrees.


But it’s the wind record that Mount Washington is most famous for.  According to the observatory, "low pressure centered north of the Great Lakes and over Connecticut paired with an area of high pressure over the Canadian Maritimes, creating a tight pressure gradient oriented diagonally across the White Mountain region."

The incredible gusts that built later that day even caught the observers off guard, who couldn’t believe what the gauges were reporting. But manual measurements confirmed not one, but two gusts reaching 231 mph.

That speed would hold as the world record until a 253 mph gust measured on a barrier island in Australia during Tropical Cyclone Olivia in April 1996 was later validated as the top gust.

But Mount Washington says their 231 mph measurement still stands as the fastest wind speed ever recorded by a staffed weather station.

The observatory is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the big wind at a Conway, New Hampshire, brewery on Friday evening to help raise funds for the observatory.