Tennessee Tree Toppers

Sequatchie Skies
January 25, 1999

Clark Harlow and John Lawton both said it was the first time they'd seen anybody get to cloudbase at Henson's in January. The forecast highs above fifty with winds from the north at 5-10 had pilots in the Hang Gliding Capital of the East anxiously awaiting the rare good winter day. While soarable conditions may be found regularly through the season, the northerly winds we like at Henson's are most often accompanied by temps in the twenties, and that's just standing on the ramp. Never mind climbing to a thousand over in the chill of a 20 mph breeze. The southerly days good for Whitwell are warmer, but usually gray, wet, or both.

Pilots all over the east recognized the springlike setup. The well defined front pushed severe weather ahead of it and trailed sunny skies behind. Rik Bouwmeester, Dan Morris, Sheldon Olson, and John Tjaaland came down from Wisconsin. Some of these pilots had never launched from a mountain before, having launched extensively by aerotow at their home site. James Anderson and Buddy Cutts chased the thunderstorms out of Montgomery to arrive in the mountains by the time the clouds cleared.

Rik reported ridge soarable conditions early, in which he was able to get about an hour. Velocity decreased as the temperature rose so hopes shifted to increasing thermal activity, then were disappointed as pilots proceeded pretty directly to the field. But disappointed is relative and a sled run can be downright refreshing after such long deprivation, as evidenced by Susan Murdoch's grin after hers. She took three of them! Just as it looked as though building high pressure would squash everone's ambitions for altitude, Buddy Cutts caught a thermal! By this time he was about 600 below launch with only about 800 over the LZ. His circling caught Kathy Lee's attention and she got in it to ride it to cloudbase at around 2000 over. She said Buddy was climbing great in his new Predator. He reported a max altitude gain of around 1500 over. They both worked it for about an hour of airtime.

The forecast calls for sunny skies and highs in the mid 60s through midweek. It'll be a Whitwell Wednesday if anywhere with winds from E to S, sunny skies, and comfortable temps, but high pressure will likely suppress convection. It gives way Thursday with winds veering toward SW and the onset of rain. Precipitation continuing Friday, some possibly frozen, with highs in the lower 50s and lows in the lower 30s. Colder and clearing with northerly winds Saturday or Sunday. See you in the sky!