Fifty years of properly recorded data is necessary to establish a weather pattern for a given area. For 36 of those years Bob Levin, 66, of Smith Center, Kan. has been doing that job.
"There can be no more than three consecutive missed days of recordings or the information for the whole 50 years is not valid," Mike Lewis, Meteorologist in Charge at the Hastings office for the National Weather Service, said. "Bob has not missed one day in the 36 years he's been doing this."
Lewis was present Saturday at an open house and reception honoring Levin and to present him the Thomas Jefferson Award. Only five such awards are presented to volunteer weather observers each year in the United States. It is an award not easily attained.
"It doesn't seem like I have done much to receive this," Levin said. "I don't really feel like I deserve it. I've just been doing the same thing for the last 36 years. I guess it all adds up."
Levin said his most memorable experience gathering the weather data came shortly after he and his wife of 20 years, Linda, were married. It had snowed the night before and he had to wade through knee deep white stuff for about one half mile to fet to the precipitation gage, melt the accumulated snow to see what the water content was then return home to make his report.
"Linda went with me," Levin said. "That's when she said I must be crazy for wanting to do this."
Levin has been a volunteer cooperative weather observer since June 1967. He replaced the former volunteer when that person died. The position was advertised in the local newspaper and Levin applied.
"I've always had an interest in the weather," Levin said. "That seemed like an excellent chance to pursue that interest."
"Bob has gone way beyond the call of duty in this job," Marla Doxey, Data Acquisitions Program Manager at the Hastings office, said. "He is only required to turn in two reports per day, one at 7 a.m. which includes the temperature and precipitation overnight, if any. The second is at noon with temp and precip., if any. He also reports at 6 p.m. and again at about 11 p.m. "
In addition, Doxey said, Levin, who is an amateur photographer, takes pictures of storm damage, flooding and any other weather-caused problems. He sends them, via e-mail, to the Hastings office where, she said, they become an important part of the weather history for Smith Center."
Lewis said those pictures are used to help determine the extent of damage cause by the weather and whether or not the town, county, or individual involved will be eligible for state or federal aide.
Doxey said to earn the Thomas Jefferson Award, an observer must have been presented with the John Campanius Holm Award at least five years prior to being nominated for the Jefferson Award. Levin received the Holm award in 1995.
Both awards were created in 1959 for the National Weather Service to honor their volunteer members. To be eligible for them the observer's excellence must include accuracy, promptness, legibility, cooperation, consistency and care of equipment, Doxey said.
"You can see what an excellent job Bob has done by looking through the notebook of accumulated reports displayed on the table, that he has turned in for the past 36 years," Lewis said.
Doxey said the Jefferson Award was named after Thomas Jefferson who recruited the first volunteer observers in 1776 in Virginia. He also made observations and reports for 40 years.