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The Daily Guide - Waynesville, MO
  • Ruth Gordon returns to the family tradition of weather observation

  • For 58 years running, either Ruth Gordon or her father, Ralph Land, of Waynesville, recorded their weather observations for the National Weather Service.
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  • For 58 years running, either Ruth Gordon or her father, Ralph Land, of Waynesville, recorded their weather observations for the National Weather Service.
    That changed in late 2007 when Gordon had to retire from her volunteer position due to health concerns.
    Since Dec. 1 of this year, though, Gordon has been back at it, observing Waynesville's weather conditions and reporting everything to the NWS once again.
    “After I retired, my secretary from my insurance agency took over,” Gordon explained.
    “But she moved in September, 2012, and no one ever replaced her. “
    This meant no one in Waynesville was able to provide official observations during this summer's massive floods in the area, which Gordon said she wishes was not the case.
    Gordon said since her health was improving, she called the National Weather Service one day and said she would be willing to re-assume her duties with the NWS' Cooperative Weather Observations Program.
    “They just needed somebody,” she said. “It's just not right for them to not have somebody. There's been someone here for too long to just no longer have it.”
    When Larry Dooley, an observations program leader with the NWS in Springfield received a phone call from Gordon expressing her interest in returning to her old position he said he was surprised since Gordon had to give up the position in 2007.
    “This is the longest running family I've had assist at one site,” Dooley said, explaining the significance of Gordon and her father's contributions. “One day, Ruth called me up and said she knew the last person (to help) had moved, and asked if we'd replaced her. Headquarters wasn't approving new sites due to budget concerns, but we were able to let Ruth take back over since we already had all of the paperwork completed for her site.”
    Dooley said he was thrilled to have Gordon once again working with the NWS.
    “She and her father never missed anything for over 50 years,” he explained. “She always did a great job when she did it.”
    Gordon said her family has helped the NWS since April 13, 1949. According to Dooley, the very first weather station at Waynesville was established on April 27, 1946. The station moved to Waynesville from Fort Leonard Wood's hospital
    “Daddy did it for 40 years, and then I did for 18,” Gordon explained. “When I was a child, he would hold me up to see what he was doing with his observations.”
    Gordon said her family's contributions to the NWS all started because NWS officials came to her father and asked if they could put an observation station on his property.
    Page 2 of 3 - “They said we were in the center of the county, and they wanted to set up a station,” she shared.
    “Daddy was a farmer, and this helped him in his farming and was interesting to him. It also instilled an interest in me and has always been a part of me.”
    When the site was set up, some neighbors were curious what unusual structure was installed at her family's home, Gordon said.
    “Everyone said it looked like a beehive,” she said.
    Gordon said weather has been a key part of her life.
    Every morning before school, Gordon and her family would turn up their radio and listen to the weather report.
    “We didn't really care about the news,” she explained. “It was the weather. That's what interested us.”
    Gordon's daily duties include sending in the daily temperatures, making a visual observation of the weather conditions and checking a large metal tube-shaped container that collects precipitation.
    For years, she also had to check the high and low temperatures for the day on thermometers set up next to the collection tube, but the thermometers are now connected to a black box that Gordon can instead read inside of her home.
    If there is any precipitation, Gordon includes that in her daily report.
    “For snow, I have to melt it down. Every tenth of an inch of water equals an inch of snow.”
    Gordon said that up until she left the NWS for the first time in late 2007, she completed all of her observations with a paper ledger.
    Now, she has to use a computer to enter her data, which can then be seen by the NWS in real-time.
    “I'm learning a whole new way to do things,” she said. “And I'm proud that I've only had to call and ask for help once.”
    Regardless of how bad the conditions were outside or what else was going on, Gordon said she or her father has always dutifully recorded their observations.
    “I haven't had any accidents yet,” she said. “I'm always very careful. Plus, they put the (observation site) where it's easy to get to.”
    She said one interesting weather occurrence she's helped observe for the NWS was a large flood in the 1980s.
    “My dad was in a Masonic Lodge meeting, and he was able to look outside and see everything from the shoe store being washed down the street,” she explained.
    “The flood this summer was worse, but that flood still did quite a bit of damage and destruction.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Gordon said she would like to keep assisting the NWS for years to come.
    “I want to keep doing this for as long as I can,” she said. “This is a part of me. This is a part of my life.”
    Dooley said the NWS would always be grateful for Gordon's dedication to the organization.
    “We're glad to have such a consistent volunteer,” he said.
    The NWS' Springfield branch covers 37 counties, and there are about 85 official observers, with about half of those being individuals and half being municipalities.
    “And Ruth's family has served longer than any other family I've ever had in the same location,” Dooley said, sounding gratefully.

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