When I see the temperature of the hour on a particular site, does that mean the average for the time period since the last reported data point, or is it the instant temperature at that exact time?
Hourly temps are the "near instantaneous" readings at the time of the hourly report (i.e., minute xx:53 at Metro Airport).
Wind data (speed & direction) are typically based on the average over a 2-minute period ending at the observation time (i.e., xx:53). If wind directions vary by something like 60 degrees or more over the 2-minutes, the direction is termed "variable."
The hourly "gust" is the maximum 3- or 5-second average wind recorded during the 2-minute period. The "gust" direction is assumed to be the same as the direction of the 2-minute wind. Gusts are reported if/when the gust tops something like 14-15 knots.
There are some other options: in each hourly report (called a METAR report), there can be a "PEAK WIND" included in the "REMARKS" comments.
The "PEAK WIND" is really the PEAK gust that occurred since the last METAR report, and includes, speed, direction and time-of-occurrence.
In fact, there are intermediate METAR reports, called SPECIALS, that can be issued between the hourly reports.
Hope this helps.