- Associated Press - Saturday, December 26, 2015

LANSFORD, N.D. (AP) - He has dedicated himself to providing important weather observations to the National Weather Service for 37 years. Recently he was recognized by the NWS as a recipient of the prestigious John Campanius Holm Award.

Christopher Simmons, Lansford, received the honor at a ceremony held at the Bismarck office of the NWS recently. The award is considered the second highest honor distributed by the NWS.

“You’ve got to be dedicated,” said Simmons when asked about the honor. “It gets in your blood.”

Simmons gets up early every day. He checks his official rain gauge at 5 a.m. each morning. Even after 37 years he finds the results fascinating and dutifully reports them to the Bismarck NWS. Rick Krolak, Observing Program Leader at the NWS in Bismarck, says Simmons’ reports are usually the first observations made in the state each day. Most other weather observers take their readings at 6 a.m., but Simmons prefers to start his day much earlier.

For several years Simmons read his rain and snowfall gauges in the backyard of his home. However, as the trees grew taller and began to interfere with accurate downfall, Simmons moved his gauges to the nearby backyard of his daughter’s house. Every day, without fail, he and his gauges supply vital information on precipitation to the NWS.

“I do it every day. Some won’t do it in the wintertime but I will,” said Simmons.

On those rare occurrences when Simmons travels or is otherwise unavailable to make his morning observations his daughter covers for him and makes sure he still gets the information he covets. Simmons then passes the information along via the Internet to the NWS.

The Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/1RHruXw ) reports that to date Simmons has only been responsible for precipitation data. Next May he hopes to add official temperature readings to his daily responsibilities. Doing so will help fill a void in the declining number of volunteer weather observers in North Dakota.

“We used to have about 115 observers. Now it’s down to about 80,” said Simmons. “It’s a sad thing. The younger folks don’t have time for it.”

Simmons said he remembers having a real interest in weather as early as 9 years old. He was a third-grader in Stockton, Calif., when he saw a book that contained drawings of weather events. It had a lasting impact on him.

“Growing up, in the summertime I’d sometimes go up on the flat roof of our home and watch the thunderheads build up across the mountains,” recalled Simmons. “There was also a Ma and Pa grocery store across from the school. I’d go over there and sneak a look at the weather report in the afternoon newspaper.”

Later, in high school, Simmons would hike into the nearby foothills to a Ranger Station where weather instruments were sheltered. The experience furthered his growing interest in weather patterns and weather observations.

From 1972 through 1975 he was stationed at Minot Air Force Base in supply. After a short stay in Minot following his military service, Simmons moved to Lansford in 1977. The following year he gladly began taking readings for the NWS and has been at it ever since.

“The Weather Service asked me and I said sure,” stated Simmons. “They used to have print-outs and hung weather maps on the wall. Now it is all computerized.”

Simmons is tasked with measuring snowfall and calculating the amount of moisture contained in it. This winter season, though, snowfall has been non-existent, a situation that Simmons compares to a winter of a few years ago.

“It reminds me of the winter of ‘97-‘98,” said Simmons. “The lowest temperature in ‘97 in December was 6 degrees. The average high was 33. The only snow was 1 1/2 inches.”

Such recollection could only come from someone with Simmons’ fascination with weather and weather statistics. And from an area resident who received one of only 25 awards issued annually in the United States by the NWS.


Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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