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Oklahoma residents report weather statistics about their community

Observers provide daily reports of 24-hour precipitation, and maximum/minimum temperature to the National Weather Service in Norman.
by Bryan Painter Published: April 7, 2013

Bonnie Jantz opened the metal file cabinet at the family business, Jantz Service & Garage in Helena. She pulled from it tablets.

Within those are weather facts since 1965 for Helena, in northwest Oklahoma.

Some days it was really hot, like more than 110 degrees on July 21, 1974; other times extremely cold, like the minus 21 on Feb. 10, 2011. Helena had 42.73 inches of rain for the year in 2008, but only received 14.7 inches in 1966.

Jantz became an observer for the National Weather Service Cooperative Observing Network in the mid-1960s. Aaron Clewell, of Watonga, started as an observer within the past year, but he's taking over for his grandfather, Clemon Clewell, who started in July 1953.

“You know in a small town, on any given day, the weather is probably the most interesting topic of conversation,” said Aaron, who owns Clewell's Family Hardware & Appliance. “I can say something like, ‘We actually had seven-hundredths of an inch of rain last night. That was the official measurement.'

“The problem is people start asking you about what's going to happen about the weather and I just have to tell people, ‘I'm just a reporter, not a prophet. I can tell you what happened yesterday, but tomorrow you're on your own.'”

The purpose of the co-op weather observer program is to obtain measurements of precipitation and temperature, which forms the backbone of the nation's climatological database, said Forrest Mitchell of the National Weather Service's Norman Forecast Office.

The importance

The observers provide daily reports of 24-hour precipitation and maximum/minimum temperature to the National Weather Service in Norman.

The preferred reporting time is 7 a.m., which coincides with the time that computer models are run that generate river stage forecasts at the River Forecast Center in Tulsa, Mitchell said.

The data also supports the local forecast offices in forecasting and issuance of warnings, particularly flood warnings.

There are 217 co-op weather monitoring stations in Norman's coverage area. Of those, 137 are reported by volunteers, including Jantz and Aaron Clewell. This is part of the national network of around 11,000 individuals.

A fun service

The co-op at Watonga was established Nov. 1, 1902. Clemon Clewell began when a co-worker asked him to take it over. The technology changed, but his commitment didn't. He'd go out at 7 a.m., and record the information.

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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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