- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

To the people at the National Weather Service (NWS), Edwin Copeland of Millport, Ohio, was never a fair-weather friend — he was an all-weather friend.

For nearly 50 years, until his death six months ago, Mr. Copeland took readings for the NWS — highs and lows, amounts of rain and snow, and other meteorological information — a daily routine that was deeply rooted in his family.

In 1891, the federal government asked for volunteers to monitor weather conditions across the country. The next year, Mr. Copeland’s grandfather, George, began taking readings for the Millport area. In 1909, he passed the gauge to his son, Lawrence, who in turn passed it on to Mr. Copeland in 1956.

The family’s 113 years of continuous weather tracking is a national record, making the Copeland weather station, known as Station Millport 2 NW, the nation’s oldest tracking site.

During World War II, Mr. Copeland served in the Marine Corps and afterwards was assigned to guard duty for President Truman at what was then called Shangri-La (now Camp David).

Upon leaving the Corps, he moved back to the 260-acre family farm in eastern Ohio, where he tended 250 head of sheep, 35 milk cows, 2,000 chickens and 500 turkeys, and raised numerous crops. Mr. Copeland also kept busy with a growing family and a host of civic activities. After marrying in 1944, he and his wife, Dorothy, became parents of a son and two daughters.

Amid all this activity, Mr. Copeland found time twice a day to walk to the little weather station near his house to record his observations.

Each day at 7 a.m., he recorded the temperature using a mercury thermometer to note the high reading and an alcohol thermometer to read the low temperature.

Twelve hours later, he would record the precipitation in what he called “an 8-inch can.” Snow was measured by melting it to a liquid state; 1 inch of liquid equals 10 inches of snow.

Mr. Copeland’s lowest-ever reading was minus 38 degrees and the hottest was 103.

The record snowfall he recorded was 36 inches during the blizzard of November 1950.

“We had 13 people at our home for Thanksgiving,” Mrs. Copeland recalled, “and they stayed there for a week.”

She said the information collected by the NWS is used in agriculture to determine what crops are suitable for an area, by builders to determine how much insulation to use in building and by others for various purposes.

Mr. Copeland was called upon as an expert witness during criminal trials and was consulted regularly by newspaper reporters to get official temperature and precipitation readings for the area.

Mrs. Copeland said people would ask her husband to predict the weather for weddings and other important dates, which he always cheerfully declined saying, “I’m an aftercaster, not a forecaster.”

“Ed loved tracking the weather, and he loved talking about the weather,” Mrs. Copeland recalled.

He was a gregarious man who loved people and through the years became something of a regional celebrity, she said. By all accounts, he also had a great sense of humor, noting that while the weather always changes, his compensation never did. He received the same pay — 28 cents a day — as his father and grandfather before him.

In the last couple of years, his health began to fail and Mrs. Copeland stepped in to do many of the readings.

On Nov. 29 last year, Theresa Rossi of the National Weather Service traveled to the Copeland home to present Mr. Copeland with the NWS Family Heritage Award, which recognizes 100 years of weather monitoring by one family.

He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage a day later and died on Dec. 27.

As she had promised, Mrs. Copeland continued to take the daily readings until March in order to complete 50 years of service for her late husband, and then closed what was the nation’s oldest weather station.

Brad Strong, a friend and admirer of Mr. Copeland, then took over the duties of monitoring the weather for Millport. Mr. Strong even uses some of the equipment from the Copeland weather station, allowing the legacy of the Copeland family to continue.

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