ST. PARIS – St. Paris resident Jeff McCulla has been recording precipitation amounts for the National Weather Service for 30 years. The organization will award him for serving as a “Cooperative Observer” on March 11.
“I didn’t realize how many years I’ve been doing it,” McCulla said. “I’m just glad I’m able to provide the service. It doesn’t seem like much, but it is a service that is beneficial to residents on further south where our water runs.”
The Cooperative Observer program stemmed from observers in the 1600s who would take systematic observations in the American Colonies. In 1776, Thomas Jefferson began to recruit volunteer weather observers throughout Virginia. By 1800, the program had expanded to five other states in the new nation. In 1890, the growing volunteer force was taken over by the Smithsonian Institution. It was not until 1953 that a plan was established to evenly blanket the nation with weather observers, according to NOAA history.
McCulla got started as precipitation observer after a neighbor, who used to work for the village water department, started to get older and ill health prevented him from continuing to monitor. His wife took it over for a while, but then she also could not continue to do so. McCulla asked if he could take it over.
In the mornings before he goes to work, McCulla uses the equipment – basically a can and a bronze tube – to measure rain or snow amounts. He does it at the same time every day. With snow, it sometimes takes a little math. He melts the snow in the container, generally by adding hot water. He measures the hot water he adds, then, when the snow melts, measures that amount and subtracts to get the actual total.
When it rains or snows all day, he checks it several times a day. McCulla said the NWS likes to know if there is more than 6 inches of rain in an hour.
“It helps in issuing flood warnings,” he said.
McCulla also reports rain and snow totals to the Miami Conservancy District.
Some cooperative observers receive funding, but most are volunteers, according to the NOAA. McCulla said he receives $10 a month for his service.
McCulla said if he takes a vacation, his son takes over the measuring and reporting. He tends not to take vacations in the winter due to how often reporting may be needed.
“The weather’s always kind of interested me,” McCulla said. “It’s not that I get into predicting or anything. That’s not the purpose. But I’ve always been happy to report rainfall (totals) to both the Conservancy and NWS. It’s just kind of been a way of life for me the last several years. I’ll continue to do it as long as I can get up in the morning, walk out the door and do what’s necessary.”
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.