Rain or shine, I’m crazy about the weather

foggy sunrise
Foggy morning. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

I’ll admit it. I’m crazy about the weather.

Rain or shine, stormy or clear, I love to watch the weather. From foggy sunrises to golden sunsets and any and all weather conditions in between, I’m on it like a tornado to a trailer park.

Yep. I’m stuck on the weather. I’ve always been fascinated by the variety of weather northeast Ohio has to offer spring, summer, fall and winter. I’m cool, however, with never having lived in Lake Erie’s snow belt.

My captivation with the climatological elements goes way back. When I was a kid and a thunderstorm roared I ran to the window, not the closet. The lightning and hail fascinated me the most.

I got a reality check, however, when I thought a 10-year old could outrun a thunderstorm for home. I couldn’t.

From then on, I took better notice of the weather and gave her all the respect she required. I took college classes that taught me much about climate and the weather.

Later, when I became a volunteer firefighter, I trained to be a severe weather observer. I’ve kept my spotter certification current.

One of the first things I do each morning is review the weather forecast. If severe weather is a possibility, I check the radar frequently for rapidly growing storms. For me, safety is a priority.

I remember the first tornado I ever saw. I was a skinny preteen. My father was driving the family car, and I spotted this white, spinning funnel cloud. I warned Dad, but he ignored me and drove right under it. When he heard the whirling noise and saw it pass overhead, Dad sheepishly said, “I guess you were right.”

With that, my amateur weather-watching career was born. When it rains, I record how much. When it snows, I measure the inches that fell. When it hails, I report the size and amount to the weather officials. The same goes for any wind-related damage.

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There’s a purpose to my weather mania. I want others to be alerted so they too can be safe.

I’m not alone. Thousands of severe weather spotter volunteers are on call across the country. When the weather turns nasty, our adrenaline gets pumping.

Take the other day for example. As a severe thunderstorm moved over the county, weather radar indicated rotation in the storm.

Just as the National Weather Service issued the tornado warning, the power went out at our house. I scampered to be sure everything was secure, gathered my rain gear and camera, and out into the storm I went.

I hadn’t ventured down the road very far until I encountered flash flooding in several locations. I reported the flooding and kept an eye on the sky as best I could as I drove.

I followed the storm through torrential, swirling rain for 15 miles. I finally reached the back of the storm just as it exited into the next county. I relayed that no funnel was seen to the weather service and headed toward home, only to encounter even more flash flooding.

With muddy, debris-laden, bumper high water running rapidly across roadways, drivers still chose to risk it. Even a horse and buggy slogged through the floodwaters. The horse’s high leg kicks indicated that the horse was none too happy.

I’ve always said that if I believed in reincarnation, which I don’t, I probably would come back as either a chiropractor or a meteorologist. Given my penchant for the weather, you can probably guess which one I’d pick.

summer sunset, Holmes Co. OH
Brilliant sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Any kind of weather suits me just fine

snowy woods, winter woods
Snowy woods. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

I can’t exactly tell you when the weather bug hit me. All I know is that the weather just fascinates me.

Maybe it started when I was a youngster. A summer thunderstorm would force the neighborhood gang of kids onto our front porch. Rained out of our outdoor mischief, we passed the time oohing and ahhing at the vivid streaks of lightning dancing across the sky.

College invigorated my interests all the more. Geography courses answered questions I didn’t even know to ask. My weather appetite intensified.

After I had graduated, I took a teaching position at Killbuck Elementary School and joined the volunteer fire department after moving to the village in the valley. When I learned that the National Weather Service depended on first responders as severe weather spotters, I was elated. I took the required course to become a trained spotter. Doing so enabled me to combine two interests into one, firefighting and weather.

fall clouds, dappled clouds, dappled sky, cumulus clouds
Dappled sky. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Both my school days and my volunteer firefighting days ended years ago. However, my obsession with the weather continues.

I keep an eye on weather forecasts for good reasons. The lives of others might depend on it. In today’s electronically connected world, I get the word out about potential severe weather through posts on social media just in case a few people don’t hear about the impending storm.

I likely won’t ever outgrow the desire to watch the weather. When the National Weather Service posts a storm watch near where I happen to be, I go into proactive mode watching various radar and severe weather pages on the Internet.

Thanks to technology, a spotter’s approach to watching for severe weather has significantly changed over the decades. Instead of going to the highest hilltop with the best vantage point and viewing from a vehicle, I can stay in the safety of my home. There I track the storm on my computer and by watching out the windows for rotating clouds, hail, and any flooding I can see.

cumulonimbus clouds, storm clouds, cloud reflections
Cloud reflections. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
It’s a little different story in the winter. Spotters help out the National Weather Service by measuring the snow the old-fashioned way, using a ruler. Of course, the measurement has to follow protocol. Spotters measure snow depths that accumulate on a board elevated above the ground.

Morning and evening, the local weather service office receives reports of new snow totals from dozens of snow spotters across the coverage areas. Doing so helps the professionals in evaluating their forecasts and even in issuing weather advisories. After all, frozen precipitation is the hardest type for career meteorologists to predict accurately.

Like many of the other community activities I’ve done in my life, being a weather spotter is a voluntary position. Knowing I am only one of many who help the weather service get the weather word out to citizens is all the pay I need.

Between tornadoes, blizzards, flash floods, damaging straight-line winds, and lightning strikes, I’ve seen a lot of wild weather in my lifetime. It may sound a little strange to say this, but I enjoy reporting what I find.

I suppose I do it both for the thrill and the necessity to relay what I have observed. Helping the official weather forecasters, even in some small ways, gives me great satisfaction.

I guess I’m just a weather geek at heart. I’ll gladly wear that badge of honor as I forge into the next snowdrift.

wheat shocks, striaght line wiind damage
Wheat shocks toppled by straight line winds from a severe thunderstorm. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015