By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — When Hurricane Hazel swept through White Plains, New York, in 1954, Dave Connor's father told his children to stay far from the windows. "I watched the storm through the mail slot in the front door," Connor, who was then seven recalled, "but it was exciting enough that it got me interested."
Connor began observing and keeping records of the weather as a teenager in Poughkeepsie, New York, and for the past 22 years has served as a Cooperative Weather Observer for the National Weather Service at Gray, Maine, which this week rewarded the faithfulness, accuracy and quality of his observations with a John Campanius Holm Award. The award is named for a Lutheran minister whose recorded weather observations taken at New Sweden, near Wilmington, Delaware, in 1644 and 1645 were the first taken in the North American colonies, and places Connor in select company. The honor is bestowed on not more than 25 of the nearly 9,000 Cooperative Weather Observers across the country each year.
Connor recalled taking his first records in 1961, a year of extreme in Poughkeepsie, when a blizzard dropped 31 inches of snow in January and the mercury touched 100 degrees in July. While serving in the United States Navy aboard the U.S.S. W.S. Sims, a destroyer escort based at Mayport Naval Base in Jacksonville, Florida, Connor was often consulted about weather conditions by the captain and once helped steer the ship to port past a tropical storm off the Florida coast. Meanwhile, he provided the crew with daily weather reports on closed-circuit television.
After leaving the Navy, Connor spent the next 20 years at Jacksonville Beach, where he began keeping records for the National Weather Service in 1976.
"It started as a hobby, but it grew into something that was useful to other people," he said.
As he followed Matthew, the most recent hurricane to strike the Florida coastline, he said that had he remained in Jacksonville, "The water would have come through my front door and left only the slab."
In 1990 Connor moved to New Hampshire, working with the United States Postal Service in Laconia and Lakeport and continuing to watch, record and report on the weather. Every day, he reports the high and low temperatures, along with the temperature at 11:30 p.m., the wind speed and highest gust, amount and rate of precipitation, whether rain or snow, and "anything out of the ordinary."
"He's always looking for the dramatic," said his sister, Diane Beaman of Laconia. "And I never get it," Connor added.
He explained that his home lies "in a hole," about 100 feet below the top of Coe Hill, shadowed by the Ossipee Mountains and Red Hill. "I get about 40 percent less snowfall," he continued, saying "if there is 15 inches in Laconia, there is 11 inches here, and if Tamworth and Moultonborough get 16 or 17 inches, I get 10 inches." He did say that two old field pines stood on his property before Hurricane Floyd in 1999, "but now there's only one."
In reporting weather conditions, Connor said that "I strive to be accurate rather than spectacular."
Nikki Becker, observing program leader with the National Weather Service at Gray, Maine, stressed the quality of Connor's observations was a significant factor in earning him the award. The citation reads: "For extraordinary service in reporting detailed observations of temperature, precipitation, and snow depth, for over 22 years from Meredith, New Hampshire. The National Weather Service Services regards your observations as a vital resource for wearer supply forecasts of the Merrimack River Basins."
Connor said that the past year has been overshadowed by the drought. He said he has measured 27.88 inches of rainfall since Jan. 1, 11 inches below the normal amount, while the 33 inches of snowfall last winter was half the average of 65 inches. But, he was cautiously optimistic that conditions would change. He said that La Nina conditions , the opposite of El Nino conditions, are forming in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, which generally lead the northern storm track to carry lower temperatures and heavier snowfall to the Northeast. "It could be a good year for snow," he remarked.
Hendricus J. Lulofs, Meterologist in Charge, of the National Weather Service at Gray, Maine, presents David Connor of Meredith with the John Campanius Holm Award in recognition of his 22 years of exemplary service as Cooperative Weather Observer. Connor was one of not more than 25 nearly 9,000 observers across the country to receive the award. (courtesy photo)
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