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Oklahoma farmer helps National Weather Service with river readings

Lonnie Heldermon, 54, of Bridgeport, Oklahoma, is a cooperative river observer for the National Weather Service.
by Bryan Painter Published: September 29, 2013

Lonnie Heldermon is doing something for others that the Oklahoma farmer doesn't have to. And he's done it for 30 years.

Heldermon, 54, is a cooperative river observer. He's an important “Plan B.”

And it's not usually a good situation on the Canadian River close to Bridgeport when Plan B kicks in. Technical equipment measures river flow on a daily basis. But, for example, in intense situations such as flooding, Heldermon is asked by the National Weather Service's Norman Forecast Office to go the river and gather the information.

Heldermon lives near Bridgeport, which is about 20 miles east of Weatherford. Heldermon recently was recognized by the National Weather Service for 30 years of service as an official cooperative river observer for that area.

The cooperative weather station near Bridgeport was established in May 1983, with Heldermon serving as the official river observer since the station's inception.

The river stage readings from the bridge east of Bridgeport are used extensively by the National Weather Service and other agencies in river flow analysis and forecasts, stormwater management, and long-term climate studies.

Heldermon remembers just how he got started. He was out in front of his house one day working on a pickup and some representatives of the National Weather Service drove up. They talked to him about the observer program. He went down to the river with them and looked at the equipment. He agreed.

With the recent drought, he didn't have to make many trips to the bridge in the past couple of years. The river has water in it, but is still below normal, he said.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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