A potentially record-breaking gust of wind was recorded at the summit of Kirkwood Mountain Resort, CA on Sunday, causing the ski area to close for the day. If verified, the 209-mph gust smashes the previous record of 199 mph at Ward Mountain west of Lake Tahoe on Nov. 16, 2017.
‘Kirkwood is closed today due to strong and increasing winds in order to ensure guest and employee safety,” Kirkwood spokesman Russ Carlton said in an emailed statement. “As you may have seen, these wind conditions aren’t exclusive to Kirkwood. As always, our mountain operations team will evaluate conditions tomorrow morning to make a determination to open.”
The blast of wind was captured around 7:45 am by an instrument at 9,186 feet on Kirkwood Mountain south of Lake Tahoe, said National Weather Service forecaster Alex Hoon. He and his colleagues at the NWS office in Reno, Nevada watched in surprise as wind speeds across the crest of the Sierra Nevada hit 150 mph and kept rising.
Powerful winds knocked down trees and caused power outages to tens of thousands in the San Francisco Bay Area, and 5-foot tall waves were recorded on Lake Tahoe. Ward Peak at Alpine Meadows had gusts of 125 mph, with the resort having nine lifts on hold and three lifts open. Squaw Valley reported six lifts on hold and five lifts open.
For nearly sixty-two years, Mount Washington, NH held the world record for the fastest wind gust ever recorded on the surface of the Earth: 231 miles per hour, recorded April 12, 1934, by Mount Washington Observatory staff. This record was smashed in 1996 when an unmanned instrument station in Barrow Island, Australia recorded a new record of 253 miles per hour during Typhoon Olivia. However, the gust in New Hampshire remains the fastest wind ever recorded in the United States and in the Northern Hemisphere. The US commemorates this record every April 12 on Big Wind day.