updated 10/31/2006 9:53:43 AM ET 2006-10-31T14:53:43

A 158-mph wind gust, the strongest since 1985, shook the weather observatory atop Mount Washington early Monday.

Overnight observer Ryan Knapp recorded a gust of 151 mph a bit earlier that shook the Mount Washington Observatory enough to wake up the rest of the small crew.

"A couple of minutes later the building roared and shook again and we had topped 158 miles per hour," observer Jim Salge said Monday afternoon.

Salge said the gust was about as strong as the 154-gust recorded by the private observatory on July 20, 1996. The strongest before that was 173 mph in January 1985.

Though small compared with peaks in the Rocky Mountains and other major ranges, Mount Washington, at 6,288 feet, has some of the worst weather in the world. The highest wind speed ever measured on the Earth's surface, 231 mph, was recorded at the observatory in April 1934.

Salge said gusts like Monday's, two times the 75-mph threshold for a hurricane, make "a real low, bass sound, kind of like a growling (or) thundering" as they batter the rugged observatory building.

The huge gust was near the tail end of a weather system that produced gusts above 140 mph during the weekend. Salge said they resulted from "a perfect setup — a storm system was moving away and a high pressure was moving in," with a sharp change in pressure between them.

The 158 mph gust came from the west-northwest, but gusts over 100 mph during the weekend came from the southeast, southwest and west, Salge said.

Wind gusts over 50 mph knocked down trees and disrupted power around New Hampshire, leaving an estimated 24,000 people without power at one point during the weekend. Heavy, driving rain in the rest of the state fell as 10 inches of snow on Mount Washington, bringing the total for the month to nearly 40 inches.

That made October the second snowiest on the mountain since 1969, when 34.4 inches of snow fell. The snowiest October was last year, when the summit got 78.9 inches. Record flooding struck other parts of the state that month.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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