Weather watchers keep their eyes on the skies


August 07, 1996|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SNOW, LIGHTNING, tornadoes or sunshine and puffy clouds: Whatever the weather, a dedicated group of weather watchers is observing intently, recording useful data for the National Weather Service.

About 30 weather watchers and interested people gathered Sunday at the Manchester Town Hall as the latest in a monthly series of presentations, organized by Councilwoman Charlotte Collett, that coincide with open hours at the Manchester Historical Center.

People came from Woodlawn, Odenton, Gaithersburg, Silver Spring, Penn State University and Parkton to discuss the weather with local watchers Herb Close of Manchester and Bobby Miller of Millers.

"In the first weekend of 1996, snow depths reached 20 to 30 inches. That probably set the tone for the year. You do get years that are more exciting," said Miller, who showed slides of the Blizzard of '96. His backyard station provides data to the National Weather Service.

"There's nothing like having a road grader come to push the snow away. You say to yourself, 'Why can't this happen more often?' You're actually living a part of history," said Miller.

Miller went out every hour during each storm that week to measure snowfall, temperature, wind speed and other factors. "What struck me the most, after the storm, was the extreme quiet. I could hear the wings of an owl that flew by."

In addition to collecting daily data from his Manchester station, Close specializes in weather history and climatology. His library includes weather history dating to the arrival of early colonists.

"When you go back in history, you find strange and sometimes more spectacular storms. Harsh winters occurred during the Civil War, for instance," said Close.

He brought a large display of photographs and reports about tornadoes in the Carroll County area since the late 1800s.

"Although hurricanes and tornadoes are more dramatic, lightning and floods are leading weather-related killers in the U.S.," Close said. He was one of the first to record the effects of the tornado in Gamber and displayed numerous photographs of the damage.

Wind speed in a tornado is higher on one side than the other, he explained, which was why some homes sustain less damage. Discussion with weather observers in the audience brought the conclusion that in the July 19 Gamber tornado, there were multiple vortexes (cones) and wind speeds of 180 mph.

"Storms are terrible when they affect people's lives. No one wants to see someone hurt. I'm a severe storm watcher to help give warning to people out there," Close said.

Bob Waskiewicz, a design engineer who had voluntarily installed the Associated Weather System station in Manchester Elementary School, said technology is replacing the backyard weatherman. One dramatic difference is that the automated system at the school is hands-off, and accessed by a computer program.

"Some people argue that a sensor is not as good as a human outdoors, who from surrounding conditions can get more from reading," Waskiewicz said. But automated systems in place at major airports throughout the country will permit weather history to be compiled with greater accuracy, he said.

Summer concerts

Spread a blanket or open a chair on Sunday when Country Edition with Jim Taylor continues the Manchester series of Summer Concerts in the Park.

The band will play at the Manchester Volunteer Firemen's Band Shell, at the carnival grounds on York Street from 6 p.m. to 7: 15 p.m.

The next concert will be Free Wheeling with Faye Tipton on Sept. 8.

The concerts are free and take place rain or shine.

Information: 374-9247.

Neighborhood fix-up

The Youth Community Service group has taken paintbrushes in hand to improve a tot lot in Robert's Field. The wooden train, benches, jungle gym and wooden frame surrounding the play area between Northwoods Trail and Century Street all received a coat of brown wood stain.

"We worked Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, a total of 53 hours," said Mary Landon, youth coordinator. "The kids were very proud. They brought their parents up to look it over."

Youths participating were Tommy Piet, Ryan Kraushofer, Danny Baumiller, Shawn Frank, Jennifer Lee, Scott Hammond, Eddie Mercer, John Paul Michael, and Tara Barchel.

Pat Brodowski's North Carroll neighborhood column appears each Wednesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

Pub Date: 8/07/96

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