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Love Utah weather? The Weather Service’s volunteer observers keep an eye on our skies

courtesy of Stacy and Wayne Grosz
Stacy and Wayne Grosz have been part of the National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observer Program for 16 years. Observers are nationally recognized for 10 years of service and every five years after that. Stacy is holding her and Wayne’s awards for 15 years of service.

Every day at 5:00 p.m. an alarm sounds at Stacy and Wayne Grosz’s residence. Ding, ding, ding, ding!

It’s a reminder to complete their daily duty — recording the weather.

The Grosz’s are volunteers in the National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observer Program. For the past 16 years they’ve kept track of conditions from several measuring devices in their backyard. They check to see if there has been any precipitation and record the high and low temperatures of the day. Then they submit their data online.

The National Weather Service is currently looking for more volunteers to do the same thing. In Utah, observers are needed in the Hanksville, Marysvale and Fairfield areas. The program was formally created in 1890, but as many as 200 observers resign each year.

Lisa Verzella, the observations program leader, said one reason people are resigning is they are getting older and can’t take observations anymore. On the other hand, younger people might not have the time or don’t stay in one place for long enough.

“There’s ways to get around not having to do it every single day, but it’s more of a habit, it’s for folks that are really interested for their own purposes or want to use it for the local community,” Verzella said.

Like the Grosz’s habit of going out at 5:00 p.m. each day. They also have a passion for following the weather.

“If my husband had another life to live, he would be a weatherman,” Stacy said.

courtesy of Stacy and Wayne Grosz
A temperature thermistor in the Grosz’s backyard, away from any structures and trees to get the best data. The reading is transmitted through a cable into the Grosz’s home to a temperature reader box. Using this, they record the maximum and minimum temperature for each 24-hour period.

The Grosz’s like the program because their data is saved in the national database for Kanab, Utah, where they live. Even though they are in a small town, there are differences in rain, snow and temperature.

Another part of their data-gathering routine is compiling measurements for the whole week on Tuesdays. That data is sent to their local newspaper, which is printed on the front cover.

“Every newspaper my wife’s and our name is on the front page, every time,” Wayne said laughing.

All observer stations are just as dedicated as the Grosz’s Verzella said, and there are some stations in Utah that are over 100 years old and have been in families for generations.

“They’re not only citizen scientists, but I would call them patriots.”

Kristine Weller is a newsroom intern at KUER. She’s only been a journalist for a year but is excited to see what the future holds.
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