209-Mile-Per-Hour Wind Gust Measured at Top of California Peak Could Be a Record-Breaker

Meteorologists have expressed their surprise after a potentially record-breaking gust of wind was recorded in California, according to reports.

National Weather Service (NWS) forecaster Alex Hoon said the gust measured 209 miles per hour. It was recorded at around 7:45 a.m. local time on Sunday by a monitoring device on Kirkwood Mountain, the Associated Press reported.

The instrument is located in a ski resort south of Lake Tahoe at an altitude of 9,186 feet.

On Sunday, a cold storm swept southwards through California bringing with it snow, rain, hail and high wind speeds.

"It went up and up," Hoon told AP, referring to the high wind speeds that he and his colleagues at the NWS office in Reno, Nevada, observed along the crest of the Sierra Nevada as the storm swept through the area.

The monitoring device at Kirkwood had been recording speeds of more than 150 miles per hour for a period of several hours—an unusual occurrence NWS forecaster Craig Shoemaker told The Sacramento Bee.

The 209-mile-per-hour gust cannot be confirmed until it has been verified by climatologists. "No doubt they had strong winds at that site," Shoemaker told the Bee. "It may actually take days to get absolute certainty."

Nevertheless, Hoon is confident that the measurement was not an error. "The way that the winds did ramp up, it looks legitimate," Hoon told AP. "It's an exciting moment for sure."

However, NWS Sacramento said the weather station at Kirkwood was also measuring 92 percent humidity during the period of high winds—something that could indicate that technical problems had occurred.

"After further review the 209 mph wind gust reported at Kirkwood seems questionable," a tweet from NWS Sacramento read. "The station seems to have multiple errors including 92 percent relative humidity during the strong winds. Also the wind seems to have been unusually strong the past few days at this station."

Kirkwood Ski Resort
Stock photo: An image of Kirkwood Mountain Resort where the potentially record-breaking gust was recorded. iStock

The high winds at Kirkwood on Sunday forced the closure of the ski resort in the interests of safety. "Due to strong and increasing winds across the mountain (gusts as high as 209 mph) Kirkwood will be closing to ensure guest and employee safety. Dining locations will remain open for guests and staff staying in the valley," Kirkwood Mountain Resort tweeted.

The current gust speed record for California is 199 miles per hour, which was recorded at Ward Mountain, located to the west of Lake Tahoe, on November 16, 2017.