Fair (and foul) weather friends

Observers enjoy taking readings

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After a notable weather event, Joyce LeFevre can count on one of her friends calling to see how much rain fell, or how low the temperature dropped last night.

LeFevre is Maybell's weather observer for the National Weather Service, calling in monthly reports that include high and low temperatures for each day, as well as measurements of precipitation in the community west of Craig.

Weather observers perform a valuable service for the national organization, which gathers facts from around the country. The organization notes trends and tracks storms as they cross the country.

"Sometimes the Weather Service calls here before the storm even arrives," LeFevre said. "They have been following it across Utah and want me to know it's coming my way."

Ethal Jordan of Hamilton was a weather observer for 47 years before she died in December 2005. Her daughter, Mary Ryan, now takes the readings for the town a dozen miles south of Craig.

Ryan calls in to the Weather Service office in Grand Junction every morning at 6 a.m. to make her report. "In June, I recorded only 16 hundredths of an inch of rain," Ryan said. "It's just a terrible year for rainfall."

Ryan also reports anything out of the ordinary, as she did two years ago, when a wind sheer "peeled the roof off of the house."

The official Craig readings come from Graham Roberts at Trapper Mine, six miles south of Craig. The mine has been making the reports since 1977, and Roberts is nearing his first year anniversary taking the readings.

Roberts reports his findings by computer each day at 7 a.m. Included in his measurements are the high and low temperatures for the past 24 hours, the 7 a.m. temperature and precipitation readings. "In that Trapper Mine is not a 24-hour operation, the weekends are a two-day average of high and low temperatures," Roberts said.

In winter, observers convert their rain gauges to snow-measuring devices. They take the cans inside to melt after a storm and measure the water content of the snow.

The observers agreed that it is fun to report the weather, and they have noticed changes in the weather patterns over the years.

"There's a lot less rain these days," LeFevre said. She recalls the big snows of the winter of 1982 and 1983, and when the temperature in Maybell dropped to 62 degrees below zero.

"When it warms up to 30 below and it feels warm, you know that it was cold out," LeFevre said.

In Hamilton, Ryan recalls when she was a child and the temperature dropped to 40 below zero. "In the blizzard of '49, they closed all the roads," Ryan said. "My mother put up people in our house until the storm passed."

She also remembers the storms of 1982 and 1983 as being the last big storms to hit Moffat County.

At Trapper Mine, the weather station contains a rotating drum that records high and low temperatures each day for one week. Roberts reloads the drum with a new chart each Monday, comparing readings with another thermometer and reporting results to the Weather Service.

All of the weather observers try to find someone to fill in for them if they leave town.

Mary Ryan is not sure she will ever equal the three awards presented to her mother by the National Weather Service, but she knows her readings are important to the service and the public. "I'll continue doing this as long as I'm here," Ryan said. "Somebody has to do it in Hamilton."

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