The McMurdo Storm--16 May 2004


figures never lie

Above is a graph of the average and peak wind speed at the NASA Radarsat building just north of town, provided by Jordan Dickens (here is the original spreadsheet). The peak gust recorded here was about 160 mph. This is not the official weather data...but the wind bird at Mac Center blew away at 96 mph, and the one on the lab gave up at 116 mph. Elsewhere around, the peak wind at Arrival Heights was 188.4 mph, and one of the walls developed a crack. Cosray survived except for the wind birds--one blew away at a mere 72 mph while the other lasted up to 170. And at Black Island, the official wind gauge blew away, but the one attached to the comms equipment recorded 157 mph sustained. In any case this may have been the most severe storm in the last 30 years. Similar wind speeds were recorded at Scott Base. Temperatures ranged from +14F to -9F during the storm period. The system also affected weather at Pole, bringing peak gusts of 40 mph which is rather significant considering that the peak wind ever recorded at Pole was 55 mph...

Okay, so what did this storm do? Briefly, it blew a lot of snow around, blew in many doors and windows, ripped off roofs and siding, knocked a lot of loose stuff around, and generally made an expensive mess:

tank with the roof blown off
In the pass, the 46,000 lb., 74'-diameter roof of Tank J1 (used for tire storage) was ripped off in one piece (from KP).
the blown off roof next to a fuel pipeline
The roof, seen here, landed near tank J-9 which contains fuel, and knocked out some stanchions under the 6" J-9 fuel line (from JD).
the tank roof rolled up like a taco
Here's another view of the tank roof...this part is rolled up like a taco (DW).
warehouse with lots of snow
Here's the scene in front of one of the warehouses (from DB).
Building 211 with siding blown off
Some of the siding damage to dorm 211 on the corner closest to the galley; also note the broken window. Dorms 203A and C also lost some siding, and 155 had some roof damage in the boiler room area. Other buildings also had broken windows (AP).
Building 211 with siding blown off
Another view, with a few flurries in the air. Of course, a broken window means a room full of snow (AP).
snow inside the MCC
Both bay doors on building 140 (MCC) blew out (from KP and JD).
the rollup door was destroyed
Here's the other end. There aren't any spare parts for any of the roll-up doors, so they'll have to be boarded up for the winter (from DB).
snow covered forklift in the VMF
Building 143 (VMF/Heavy Shop) lost the bay 1 door (photo from DB and this 21 June 2004 Antarctic Sun article).
snow inside the VMF
Here's a closer view (from KP).
snow covers the storage shelves
Of course this let in lots of wind and snow. There were no replacement parts for the rollup doors, they had to be boarded up for the winter (from DB).
the comms manager's office in building 159
The comms manager's office in B-159 also got rather snowy inside. This was once the VXE-6 CO's office. This building had broken windows, and a water line burst outside, losing about 20,000 gallons of water (AP).

Check out the rest of the damage...