The U.S Forest Service has announced the closure of the entire White Mountain National Forest for two days due to the unprecedented danger posed by Hurricane Irene. This includes all AMC and RMC (Randolph Mountain Club) huts and shelters, all U.S.F.S. shelters, all trails, and all campsites. The White Mountain National Forest will be closed from 6 pm Saturday night, August 27th, until midnight Monday night, August 29th.
The warning has several implications the most obvious one being that the Mount Washington Weather Observatory has issued a warning of intense flooding in some areas and with the amount of rain that's predicted (possibly 4-5 inches) this would pose an extreme danger for hikers and campers almost anywhere within the WMNF. High winds, including some above 100 mph, or even higher, may occur and will exponentially increase danger to hikers and campers.
From all the predictions being aired tonight (8-26-11) this storm is truly a major event, one we allude to as a major "disturbance" (like the 1938, 1954 and 1958 hurricanes) or a Century Storm (sometimes referred to as a "100 Year Storm" which means that you only see one this intense, or memorable, in a 100 years). At any rate it seems we're about to witness a storm of great intensity that may cause intense damage to areas in the WMNF. We can expect some landslides, a lot of flooding of all streams and rivers in the forest with resulting damage, and possibly long term changes in some areas including disappearance of roads and trails due to wash outs (as in the great storm of 1826 that destroyed the road in Pinkham Notch). It's a terrible thought but this storm could cause major damage to any of the AMC and RMC huts and shelters. Closing the WMNF is a first for me. I don't remember any other time in the past 60 years, at least, that it has been officially closed like this (which isn't saying that it hasn't been closed at some point possibly due to forest fire hazards at one time or another).
I have a copy of a letter written by Carl Blanchard to a friend describing his experience riding out the 1938 hurricane at Lakes of the Clouds Hut. It was quite an adventure. He described how the whole hut "quivered" in the wind and how the heavy front door of the hut kept blowing open violently and repeatedly no matter how well the croo tried to secure it. At one point Carl tried to pull is shut just as the door blew off its hinges and nearly took him with it down the Ammy as it sailed out of sight in the storm. The door was later recovered.
I have to say I'm one of those people who wishes I could be up at Lakes or Galehead, or any of the huts, to ride out Hurricane Irene. It would be a great adventure. I'm also frustrated that I won't be able to be in the mountains the days following the storm to document the damage it does. Ah well, maybe next time.
This Just In: All hut croos are to stay in their respective huts for the duration of the hurricane (unless they decide to go and raid another hut). Nifty!