National Weather Service recognizes Coalville woman
Margaret Bowman hadn’t realized her daily weather observations were worthy of recognition until the National Weather Service of Salt Lake City notified her that she had been selected to receive a national award.
Bowman and her late husband, Dwain, began recording the temperature and water precipitation from their home in Coalville in 1987 and never missed a day. Rain, snow or sunshine, the Bowmans tracked the weather and submitted their observations for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Cooperative Observer Program.
Bowman, 88, was awarded the John Campanius Holm Award on Feb. 2 in front of her friends and family at her home. The award is one of the agency’s most prestigious recognitions, with only 25 given out each year among nearly 10,000 volunteers nationwide.
“I was very surprised,” Bowman said. “I didn’t think for a minute they would have five people come out here, let alone all my friends and family. I really appreciated it.”
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The National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observer Program requires volunteers across the county to record daily maximum and minimum temperatures, precipitation, snowfall and snow depth. The award is named after John Campanius Holm, who was a Lutheran minister and the first person known to have taken systematic weather observations for the American colonies, according to a press release.
The Coalville Observer Network station was established in 1974 to provide data for forecasting operations for the National Weather Service and the River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City. Randy Graham, meteorologist in charge, said daily observations, such as Bowmans, are critical for maintaining a climate record in Coalville.
“We can see what the climate trends are and how things are changing over time for things such as water resources management and understanding how the snowpack runoff is changing over time,” he said. “It’s an amazing way to get information because it’s volunteers and people who are being really selfless to provide weather information and it benefits their community.”
Graham said volunteers provide information about areas that are somewhat remote and inaccessible. He said it would cost a significant amount of money to place equipment in those areas.
“I’m amazed by the people who do this,” he said. “They have such devotion to this job. I mean imagine doing that for 30 years. I’m always really blown away by the spirit of volunteerism. It’s really impressive and they have provided us with really accurate data. They didn’t miss any days. It’s not just about longevity, but also the quality.”
Lisa Verzella, operations program leader with the National Weather Service, said she nominated Bowman for the award in 2017. She said wanted to recognize Bowman’s contribution because she has been providing “steady, dedicated daily observations for 30 years.”
“Most of our volunteers are kind of self-proclaimed weather nerds,” she said. “You also have to have a dedication and a real interest to do this task day after day. It’s an investment. Back in the day, these were agricultural records and people depended on these. They would approach weather observers to find out what the weather has been like. It’s still really important, though, especially in the smaller communities like Coalville.”
Verzella said Bowman was “always just so dedicated and we knew what the snow was up here.” She added, “It was great and a no-brainer to nominate her.”
Bowman officially opted out of the volunteer program last year when a leg injury made it difficult for her to get around her yard to take the measurements. She said she misses the daily chore, but she won’t miss trudging through the snow when temperatures are below freezing.
“We had a lot of snow one year and it was 24 degrees below zero and that just sticks in my mind,” she said. “I didn’t have to walk very far, but it’s been interesting. I don’t remember anything being any worse than that.”
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