Manti man gets national award for 40 years of ‘accurate’ weather watching
MANTI—A Manti resident who has been taking local temperature, precipitation and snow-depth readings from his backyard station for 40 years received a top national service award along with a longevity award last week.
Lee J. Anderson, 79, accompanied by his wife, Judy, received the John Campanius Holm Award Wednesday, March 8, during a presentation at the Sanpete Messenger office.
Randy Graham, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake City Weather Forecast Office, presented the Holm Award plaque. Then Lisa Verzella, also of the Salt Lake City office, who coordinates volunteer weather observers in Utah, pinned a 40-year longevity pin on Anderson.
There was still one other award. Lee and Judy’s son, Rawlin Anderson, who lives across the street from his parents, who filled in as weather observer when his parents went on an LDS mission and who continues to sub for them when they aren’t home, received a 10-year service plaque. Eventually, he plans to take over for his dad.
The John Campanius Holm Award is named for a Lutheran minister who, from all that is known, took the first systematic weather observations in the American colonies in 1644 and 1645.
There are 10,000 volunteer weather observers like Anderson throughout the United States, including 125 in Utah. The Holm award is given to a maximum of 25 per year.
The award recognizes the “longevity and quality” of Lee’s observations, Graham said. “It takes a lot of dedication to do what Mr. Anderson has done….When we are asked, ‘How is this year compared to past years?’, we have a great record because of people like Lee.”
As notable as Lee’s 40 years of reporting weather data is his family’s four-generation tradition as weather reporters.
The Andersons have been the official Manti weather observers for 109 years. Lee’s grandfather, James M. Anderson, was the National Weather Service observer for 51 years, from 1908-1959. Lee’s father, Leslie J. Anderson, filled the role for 18 years, from 1959-1977. Lee, with periodic help from Rawlin, has been doing the job for the 40 years since.
Lee and Judy live at 305 E. 500 South. Lee’s father and grandfather lived within a block of where he lives. So the 109 years of weather records reflect a consistent location, which makes for more valid comparisons of present and past climate patterns.
In 2012, Lee and Rawlin accepted a Family Heritage Award from the weather service in recognition of their family’s 100-plus years of service.
Lee said he has a thermometer and rain gauge provided by the weather service about 50 feet from his house. He used to have to go outside to read the thermometer. But the current thermometer transmits the high and low temperature for each 24-hour period to a monitor on his desk inside the house.
If it rains or snows, he has to take a reading from the rain gauge, a tube-like device that measures precipitation down to 1/100th of an inch. If it snows, he brings the gauge inside so the snow can melt and then measures the resulting precipitation.
For snow depth, he simply sticks a ruler through the snow to the ground. “Sometimes I do it three or four times a day and take an average,” he said.
Each day, usually about sunset, he enters his readings into a National Weather Service website on the computer. It’s more a habit than an obligation, he said. “It’s just one of those things we do every day.”
A National Weather Service press release announcing Lee Anderson’s selection for the Holm Award stressed the value of ground observations gathered by volunteers.
“Satellites, high-speed computers, mathematical models and other technological breakthroughs have brought great benefits to the nation in terms of forecasts and warnings,” the release said.
“But without the century-long accumulation of accurate weather observations taken by volunteer observers, scientists could not begin to adequately describe the climate of the United States.”