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Rain, wind and snow: Epping clan reports it all

Union Leader Correspondent

June 06. 2013 9:23PM
Epping farmer Charles Sanborn, center, leans on his rain gauge while chatting with Hendricus Lulofs, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, and James Brown, hydrometeorological technician. Sanborn’s family was honored Wednesday for providing weather observations to the weather service for the last 40 years. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)

EPPING — Weather is serious business for the Sanborn family.

It all started in 1973 when Richard F. Sanborn began observing weather and reporting temperatures, precipitation amounts and other vital information to the National Weather Service.

In 2000, Sanborn’s son Charlie took over the job of weather observer at the Sanborn farm on Fremont Road.

And at 71, Charlie, his wife, Judy, and their daughter, Mary Hoelzel, continue to keep a close eye on the weather.

It’s a strictly volunteer behind-the-scene job, but their dedication to providing accurate observations of New Hampshire’s weather hasn’t gone unnoticed.

On Wednesday, members of the National Weather Service’s office in Gray, Maine, presented Charlie Sanborn with a Length of Service Award recognizing the family for 40 years of weather observations.

Sanborn plans to put the framed award right above his readout unit.

Weather observing is a daily job, but Sanborn loves it, even when he has to tromp through snow to reach his instruments.

“I enjoy doing it, I really do. It’s just part of the day. It’s like getting up and brushing your teeth,” he said.

Sanborn records the daily high and low temperatures and uses a rain gauge in the backyard to measure precipitation. He then calls in his information to the meteorologists in Gray.

When he’s unable to take the readings, Sanborn relies on his wife and daughter to do the work.

Sanborn is one of about 40 official National Weather Service observers in New Hampshire, according to Nikki Becker, observing program leader at the Gray office.

“When you think about it, 40 years is a long time for a family to be dedicated to it. This is every day, about the same time, and when it’s 20 below out and nobody else really wants to do it, they’re still going out and doing it. It’s a big commitment,” said Hendricus Lulofs, meteorologist in charge at the Gray office.

Tom Hawley, a hydrologist in Gray, said it’s getting harder to find observers to stay because families these days are less likely to stay in one place for a long period of time.

“As time goes on it’s going to be less and less likely that we’ll be giving out 40- and 50-year awards,” he said.

Keeping track of the data from one place for 40 years is important for the climatological record, Lulofs said.

“It’s folks such as Charlie that really partner with the government in the weather world to help make our forecasting process and our warning process as accurate as it can be. Without volunteers like this we would be in a much more difficult situation to do what we do,” Lulofs said.

Weather NH People Epping Photo Feature

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