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Rare lenticular cloud spotted at Bretton Woods

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter

Bretton Woods Ski Patrolman Ned Quigley snapped a photo of this rare lenticular cloud at the base of the mountain on Feb. 4. (Courtesy Photo — Ned Quigley) (click for larger version)
February 15, 2017
BRETTON WOODS — When you look up and see something that looks like a mix between a flying saucer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, what you're seeing is a lenticular cloud. These clouds are not uncommon in mountainous regions however to spot a stacked one is rare.

These clouds are formed when air moves over mountain ranges, cooling enough for condensation to occur. What sets these clouds apart from others is the fact that they don't move. The clouds are constantly being reformed in the same location from new air rising. The scientific name for the cloud is altocumulus.

During the early morning of Saturday, Feb. 4, Bretton Woods Ski Patrolman Ned Quigley loaded up his ski gear, as he has for the past 24 years, and headed to the mountain. As he was driving, he could see the cloud in the distance; it wasn't until he was about to jump on the lift when he saw this spectacular sight in the sky.

Quigley said, "I could see them as I was leaving Whitefield, so I was hoping when the sun came up and backlit them it would be awesome and it sure didn't disappoint."

Over the years, Quigley said that he has seen them before but you have to be at the right place at the right time and that it's all "basically luck."

Quigley added, "I have seen them before, but never one quite like that. I feel lucky to have seen it. It didn't last a half hour after the sun came up and it dissipated."

The cloud was sitting on the Bretton Woods side of Mt. Eisenhower and Mt. Pierce.

There is some folklore regarding stormy weather coming about 24-72 hours after spotting a lenticular cloud. Two days later on Tuesday the region was hit with snow, strong winds and freezing rain.

Besides seeing this rare sight, Quigley said the area surrounding Bretton Woods brings all sorts of different weather events.

"I remember there were some crazy floods in October of 1996. Three out of four weekends that month there were some cool high water events. The third one which was the last weekend of October that year, actually closed Crawford Notch with landslides," Quigley said, adding "The Mount Washington Hotel was basically an island and I remember the general manager at the time, Clem, had taken pictures from Route 302 and the access road was completely submerged in water."

Even though Quigley spends the week working and living in the southern part of the state he ventures up each weekend to patrol Bretton Woods and many times has his three girls and wife with him.

He joked, "Yeah, again, as a closet meteorologist, you will never hear me complain about a storm unless they mess up the forecast and it doesn't hit.

"My favorite part about getting up to the mountain early over all of these years is all cool sunrises and just how different the weather can be and so quickly."

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