While those of us on the tube are the more visible faces of weather people, Feb. 5 salutes all those professionals, volunteers and hobbyists dedicated to working tirelessly to keep the public weather aware and storm safe!
As the National Weather Service notes, more than 11,000 volunteers take regular weather measurements used by forecasters and climatologists. Nearly 300,000 volunteer storm spotters are trained by the National Weather Service to provide visual reports of severe weather conditions to forecast offices and local emergency management officials. Volunteer amateur radio operators provide critical emergency communications during severe weather. And certainly companies that forecast and provide weather graphics and explainers are to be lauded.
So why Feb. 5?
It is the birthday of the man considered to be American’s first weatherperson, Dr. John Jeffries, born in Boston on February 5, 1744. Gaining his medical degree by age 24, Jeffries began his medical practice and served as an assistant surgeon in Boston. And he kept detailed weather records -- entries three times a day -- until March 1776.
What happened in 1776? Despite caring for the wounded during the Boston Massacre, Jeffries remained loyal to Britain. He declined to be head of medical services for the Colonies and left with British troops for Nova Scotia where his medical practice thrived. In 1780, he returned to America to support Britain, staying five months before moving to London. In London, he took his famous balloon rides to study the air.
He actually paid for at least two balloon excursions manned by French balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard and took on board a barometer, thermometer, hygrometer, electrometer, and mariner’s compass to take observations of the air above. He even took seven glass bottles to sample the air at different levels (I can’t imagine that led to much). The flights went up anywhere from 6,000 to 9,000 feet.
The first flight took place on Nov. 7, 1784, over Hyde Park, London where he dropped a number of postcards to those below and the second on Jan. 7, 1785, went from Dover across the English Channel to France, where the two were taken to Paris as heroes.
There, Jeffries was wined and dined, and met with John Adams and Ben Franklin to whom he delivered letters having been brought from England by “air mail” via the balloon.
Jeffries eventually settled back in Boston in 1790. He began recording daily weather again and would do so until 1816. He also began an obstetrics practice and brought more than 2,000 babies into the world in Boston.
- SEE HERE: Hurricane Season from Hell forecast for Houston
Dr. John Jeffries died on Sept. 16, 1819, of a hernia and is buried near Paul Revere in Boston. Married twice, only seven of his twelve children survived to adulthood.
So Happy National Weatherperson’s Day! And, weirdly coincidental, Happy Shower with a Friend Day, too!
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