MILLPORT, Ohio – “It’s just like milking cows” is how veteran weather observer, Edwin Copeland, describes his nearly 50 years recording local temperatures and precipitation for the National Weather Service. “You have to be there every day.”
Copeland, the third generation of his family to observe weather conditions for the U.S. government, received the newly created Family Heritage Award from the National Weather Service Nov. 29.
The award honors families with more than 100 years of service reporting on weather.
The Copeland family is one of only eight families in the U.S. eligible for the award.
Getting started. Edwin’s grandfather George started the Copeland family’s 113-year tradition on the Copeland farm on Bethesda Road near Hanoverton, Ohio.
In 1891, the government asked for volunteers
to monitor local weather, Copeland said, and his grandfather started his reporting in July 1892.
The daily recording was continued by his father, Lawrence, at the same location and March 1, 1956, Edwin, then 36, took over from his father.
Station Millport 2 N.W. remained on the Copeland homestead for 100 years.
“It was in front of the house and then it was moved to the back,” Copeland said.
Then he relocated the weather station a few hundred yards up the hill to the home he built in the early 1980s.
A passion. Weather observation is a passion with Copeland, 86, who proudly displays commendations from the National Weather Service but when asked why he does it, the answer is a direct, “my family just likes to do stuff.”
Copeland has done “stuff” all his life; weather is only a part of it.
Copeland farmed the family’s 260 acres until 1979 when he sold the big farm.
“I kept a little farm (40 acres) and had sheep and beef cattle,” he said. “Then I sold them off in 1996.”
He likes to point out that 100 acres of the homestead was purchased by his great grandfather, Patterson Copeland, in 1847.
During his farming years, Copeland’s farm had 250 head of sheep, 1,000 broilers, 1,000 layers, 500 turkeys and 35 milk cows.
“I raised everything except goats and geese,” he said.
Carpentry to use. Copeland was also a carpenter. For many years he worked with his uncles, the Brown Brothers of Millport, building numerous homes and barns in the area.
Uncle Sam took advantage of those carpentry skills as well. A Marine during World War II, Copeland was preparing to ship out to Japan but after Hiroshima and Nagasaki he was assigned to what was then called Camp Shangri-La.
He did carpentry work at this prestigious location as well as pulling his share of guard duty. Camp Shangri-La was subsequently renamed Camp David by President Eisenhower.
Changes over time. There have been few changes in weather observation over the years. The forms he uses to record the weather are very similar to those used by his grandfather in 1892.
The biggest change, according to Copeland, was after World War II when the Weather Service was shifted to the Department of Commerce from the Department of Agriculture.
What hasn’t changed is the pay. “I get 28 cents a day,” Copeland said. “That’s $102 a year.”
For that, Copeland reports the daily high and low temperatures and the daily precipitation.
The temperature readings are taken at 7 p.m. with two thermometers – a mercury one to record the high and an alcohol one for the low.
Precipitation is recorded at 7 a.m. using what Copeland calls “an 8-inch can.”
He sends his monthly reports to the National Weather Service office in Moon Township, Pa., at the Pittsburgh International Airport in postage-paid envelopes.
“For 28 cents a day, they better pay for the postage,” Copeland said in his usual wry manner.
‘The can.’ Most recently, Copeland’s health has been poor and his wife of 61 years, Dorothy, has been helping him, checking the thermometers and “the can” daily.
The coldest three days that he ever reported were minus 38 degrees, followed by minus 18 and then minus 28. The hottest was 103 degrees.
Ask him about the strangest weather he has reported and his response is, “We just had it.”
He has testified in court on weather conditions and often receives calls about weather conditions and requests for forecasts.
For this winter, Copeland anticipates cold and lots of snow. However when a woman called him in July and asked him what the weather would be like on a specific Saturday in October when her daughter was planning a wedding, Copeland said he declined to make that forecast.
More than history. The records that Copeland keeps are more than just a history.
Copeland said the information compiled by him and the National Weather Service is used by farmers to determine what crops are appropriate for an area, by contractors to determine the amount of insulation needed in construction, and for many other commercial applications.
Copeland proudly talks about his two daughters, a son, four grandsons and a great-granddaughter and doesn’t seem to be disappointed that the Copeland family tradition of observing the weather will end with him.
He noted that there are four other weather stations in Columbiana County and they, like the Corps of Engineers rain gauge that is located adjacent to his Weather Station, are satellite monitored.
The days of having people monitor the weather are numbered, Copeland believes, but until that time, Edwin Copeland and his wife Dorothy will check the thermometers at 7 a.m. and “the can” at 7 p.m. and in between time they will be off – off to a pancake breakfast in Salineville, a 4-H banquet in Guilford, to Minerva for flu shots, a Farm Bureau dinner in Hanoverton or to church.
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