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Thousands Join in Volunteer Weather Network

July 3, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Thousands of Americans stop their normal activities once a day, head outdoors and officially record the weather in one of the nation’s largest volunteer programs.

Harry U. Gibson, 83, trudged out into Idaho’s record low temperatures last February, keeping up a tradition of never being late to report in a quarter- century as an observer.

To the south, in Red River, N.M., Robert W. Prunty is maintaining a 57-year family effort in volunteer weather observing.

Nearly everyone can call themselves a weather observer, of course.

But 11,650 Americans do it in a regular, formal system organized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

These records, compiled over more than a century, constitute the formal climate record of the United States and are used in both weather and climate calculations.

The observers take readings of rainfall, temperature, river levels and other information, some collecting data at 7 a.m. local time, others between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. local time.

Their information is compiled with readings taken at National Weather Service offices and by observers around the world to constitute a global climate network.

NOAA annually honors its volunteer observers, selecting five for the Thomas Jefferson Award, named for the third president, who was an avid weather observer.

In addition, other volunteers are honored with the John Campanius Holm Award, named for the man who collected the first weather observations in colonial America, between 1644 and 1645 near Wilmington, Del.

The winners receive plaques citing their achievement.

The Jefferson award winners this year are:

-Gibson, a retired farmer, until recently collected weather data in Boise and Kuna, Idaho for some 25 years. Going beyond his call of duty, Gibson also warned local farmers of sudden temperature drops that may threaten crops and livestock.

-Prunty, a retired postmaster and assistant fire chief, has also distributed daily weather reports at the local post office and prepares weather summaries for the Sangre de Cristo Chronicle in Eagle Nest, N.M.

-William B. Gillespie Jr., of Effingham, N.C., succeeded his father as local observer in 1946 to maintain a family tradition started in 1918. Gillespie has battled floods to gather river stage data and hasn’t missed a report in 41 years despite the pressure of also managing a general store.

-John O. Nellermoe, a former rancher in Trotters, N.D., has been a cooperative observer for 39 years. Besides reporting on crucial aspects of soil moisture and temperature, he also provides emergency assistance as a severe storms spotter.

-Henry Cordes, of Cordes, Ariz., has been a volunteer observed for 51 years without ever missing an observation or turning in a late report.

In addition to the five volunteers receiving the Thomas Jefferson Awards, 24 were selected for the Holm Award.

They are Hubert Bohleber, Carmel, Ill.; Charles S. Botsford, Marion Center, Pa.; Clemon G. Clewell, Watonga, Okla.; Jose A. Colom-Coll, Cerro Gordo- Ciales, Puerto Rico; Henry Dembowski, Loup City, Neb.; Jack W. Fronabarger, Stanley, N.M.;

Also Xinia I. Jones, Centerville, Ind.; Kenneth Leighow, Millville, Pa.; Mildred K. Mignone, Marion, Ill.; David A. Perry, Oskaloosa, Kan.; Joseph E. Peterson, Delphi, Ind.; John W. Plaisier, Titonka, Iowa; Frank L. Ramsey, Kansas, Okla.; Robert J. Renard, Monterey, Calif.;

And Marion J. Saia, Emmett, Kan.; Mr. and Mrs. Jack Sharpe, La Harpe, Ill.; Cyril G. Small, Lockport, N.Y.; Edward Sondag, Sykeston, N.D.,; Cicero W. Swint, Jonesboro, Ga.; Kenneth F. Taylor, Idleyd Park, Ore.;

Also Eugene C. Uhrig, Scotts Mills, Ore.; Joseph Wasson, Payson, Ill.; Lawrence Wohleb, Naponee, Neb., and Jesse G. Young, Hubbell, Neb.

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