Rain or shine, David City resident Jim Masek was up before 6 a.m. nearly every day for 25 years tracking the happenings of Mother Nature for the National Weather Service.
Masek, who for 30 years was a postal worker delivering mail around north David City, was one of 250 cooperative weather observers in the state and one of 10,000 nationally before officially retiring in September 2018. Not that ‘officially’ retiring really meant stepping away at that exact moment.
“I actually retired in fall of last year but I kept doing it all winter because they didn’t find anyone else until this spring,” Masek said.
In May, National Weather Service representatives came to Masek’s home to pick up their weather-tracking equipment and to recognize his two-plus decades of service. He was presented with a framed certificate and lapel pin commemorating his efforts.
“The National Weather Service greatly appreciates this service and extends its thanks to Mr. Macek for a job well done,” said Joni Brand, observations program leader for the National Weather Service out of Valley, whom Masek reported his weather figures to regularly.
Masek’s interest in weather started at a young age while growing up on a farm in Valparaiso. Even as a child his internal clock was set early, resulting in him being up and at ‘em when the sun was just rising.
It gave him the time necessary to do something he really enjoyed.
“Channel 10 had a couple of guys that always did the weather and I would get up at 7:30 to watch them,” Masek said. “I was always interested in the weather, and school was only a quarter-mile from my house. So we would ride our bikes or walk, and if they were saying that it would be raining in the afternoon we would make sure to take our raincoats with us.”
That passion continued into adulthood and became somewhat of a hobby during his time as a school teacher and postal worker. Being outside and logging thousands of miles on foot meant that it was always important to have a good gauge of what was happening outside.
Prior to ringing Brand between 6 and 7 a.m., Masek used a solar-powered, weighing precipitation gauge to document daily precipitation amounts, Brand said through provided information to The Banner-Press. The gauge measured the amount of precipitation that fell and at the end of each month, Masek downloaded the data onto a flash drive and mailed into the National Weather Service in Valley.
Daily precipitation amounts and temperature readings were reported to Brand and then forwarded to the National Climate Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina, where it was archived with other weather observations from all around the country.
The data, Brand said, is then used extensively by the National Weather Service, Corps of Engineers, state climatologists and numerous others in both public and private sectors before eventually becoming part of the climatic record for the local area it was recorded in.
Cooperative weather observers, Brand said, operate out of private residents, ranches, farms, municipal facilities, utility departments, dams, game refuges, radio stations and numerous other locations.
While there were days that Masek was unable to fulfill his duties, they were few and far in between. He estimated that in 25 years he had people – his wife, Jacque; and two other people – fill in for him on a handful of occasions.
“Probably about four times a year,” Masek said. “And if you do the math I guess that comes out to right around 100 times over 25 years. But other than that, between 6 and 7 (a.m.) I was always calling in saying what the weather had done.”
Even in retirement, Masek still has a vested interest in what’s happening with weather patterns. As a serious gardener, he noted that it’s always in his best interest to monitor the elements. In fact, he just made a trip to Menards to invest in an indoor/outdoor temperature gauge, one that has a continuous rain gauge tallying precipitation amounts.
“But you never have to dump it,” he said.
Masek acknowledged that he will miss some of what the volunteer job entailed, but reiterated that it was time to step away.
“I said that after 25 years of (doing it) every day, every morning calling ... it was finally time to give it up,” Masek said. “… I will kind of miss visiting with the people – every time it rained I would call the sheriff’s office and let them know how much rain we had because they would have people calling them asking.
“And then every week I would drop off the weather at The Banner-Press because we have a lot of people in Butler County who were interested in that, too. I just enjoyed doing it, and I still have a big interest in it with the gardening I do. It helps me know whether I need to water my garden or not."
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.