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The Wind Chill Could Hit -110°F on Mount Washington This Weekend

With record low temperatures, unbelievably strong winds, and unusual weather patterns likely to drop the stratosphere to the level of the summit, it's a bad weekend to climb Mt. Washington.

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An incoming Arctic air front will bring frigid temperatures to New England this weekend—but nowhere will feel the brunt of it as hard as Mount Washington, where the wind chill could hit an incredible -110° F and officials are warning hikers to stay off of its slopes.

According to the Mount Washington Observatory, winds on the summit were averaging almost 100 mph, with gusts cresting 120 mph. The forecast overnight low for Friday was -47°F—which, if reached, would tie for the coldest temperature ever recorded there. The National Weather Service forecast that the troposphere—the lowest level of Earth’s atmosphere—would likely dip below the summit, meaning that the observatory would temporarily be located in the stratosphere.

Speaking to WCAX in Burlington, Vermont, weather observer Francis Tarasiewicz said that staff at the observatory were riding out the storm on the summit with their cat, Nimbus, and bundling up against the cold.

“What I’m wearing is a basic undershirt and a flannel underneath, and on top of that, we’ll be wearing yet another undershirt and a shell,” Tarasiewicz told the news station. “And so, really just adding extra layers and also keeping in touch with each other to make sure no one goes outside alone.”

Often called “home of the world’s worst weather,” 6,288-foot Mt. Washington can be a challenging, dangerous hike. Some 250,000 people visit the peak in an average year, with many of them making the roughly 9-to-10-mile round-trip to the top. Despite its popularity and accessibility, Mt. Washington can also be deadly: More than 160 people have died there since recordkeeping began, with many succumbing to exposure after being unexpectedly caught in fast-moving storms.

In a joint press conference on Thursday, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said the state had put up messaging along the main route to Mt. Washington “to encourage our hiking community to try to curb their activities through the weekend as we see these extreme temperatures.”

Jay Broccolo, the director of weather operations at the Mount Washington Observatory, warned hikers that the unusually bad weather meant that a small mistake could quickly become lethal.

“It has happened many times before above treeline,” Broccolo said. “It can really only take you taking a glove off, and within a minute your fingers are almost unable to move because your body has pulled the blood away from your fingers.” He went on to note that none of the buildings on the higher elevations on the mountain would be open for the public to take shelter from the storm this weekend, and even rescue crews would have difficulty reaching stricken hikers who ignored warnings.

Forecasts call for temperatures to remain in the negatives through Saturday, before—at least temporarily—rising above 0°F on Sunday.

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