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Recording weather is nature for Berkeley Springs weather lady

July 18, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Jane Tweddell is known as the "weather lady" in Berkeley Springs. People started calling her that after she submitted weekly weather reports to the local newspaper, she said. She comes by it naturally.

She is a farmer's daughter raised in Gloucestershire, in western England. Her mother recorded everything on the farm including the weather.

Like her mother, who started recording the weather in 1949 and still does, Tweddell began writing a diary of "what I noticed," she said and recorded daily weather. She kept it going because of her contact with her mother, and it was something in common they shared during frequent telephone calls, she said. They discussed their recordings and weather-related happenings.

Tweddell uses a rain gauge and maximum-minimum thermometer and she learned how to "sight" from her mother.

"You always hold the thermometer vertical and at eye level," she said. She built a louvered box which is always shaded and protected from the wind to get accurate measures.

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She said where she lives in Morgan County is similar terrain as the farm in Gloucestershire. She and her husband retired to Morgan County from London in 1990.

Tweddell was a library volunteer in 1995, and people would come in and discuss the weather and mention how dry or wet the month was and how different it was from last year. Tweddell got curious and checked her recordings. Most of the time, the weather was not as different as people thought, so she wrote an article and submitted it to the local weekly newspaper. Since about 1997, Tweddell said, she submits a weekly weather report to the Morgan Messenger.

She said she has shared weather information with teachers and students, but she does no forecasting, she said. The students made graphs from the daily weather summaries. "Nine- and 10-year-olds are fascinated with the weather," she said.

She has shown students how to put the information together. "This is a teaching tool," she said.

Cindi Close teaches science to sixth-graders at Warm Springs Middle School in Berkeley Springs.

"You want to teach students all about weather," she said. "Students love learning about it and how it affects us. It dictates whatever you're going to do for the day."

Pam Mann homeschools her son, Robbie Mann, 13. She said he has created weather graphs, and Tweddell's information is a great learning tool for understanding how weather affects the way we live.

"By studying weather patterns and the environment, it makes us have a better understanding of conserving and respecting our available resources," Mann said.

Tweddell's weather summaries include imperial as well as metric systems of measurement. On a weekly basis, she includes a high and low temperature and an average of both, the amount of precipitation and snowfall for the week and a monthly average.

She said she learned how to record the snowfall and convert it to precipitation by contacting a weatherman, Bob Ryan of NBC4 Washington, D.C.

He told her to collect the snowfall in a straight-sided bucket placed out of the wind and to take five measurements all four corners and the middle - "for a good average," she said. She then melts the snow to measure the precipitation for a total rainfall measurement.

She likes using simple tools to record her findings. Someone recommended using a weather station, which is a computerized system with ongoing recordings, but found it costs about $2,500. She uses the same tools as her mother and it gives her a chance to communicate her findings to her mother, she said.

Tweddell said she hopes people will take notice of the weather more and do what is necessary to conserve. Using her records of June 1, the area was 14 inches short in rainfall from last year.

"Conserving water is important," she said. Even though the area received a lot of rain at the end of June, the area is still dry and short of rain. Tweddell said she is an avid gardener and she believes in planting those native to the area.

She said she learned how to respect the land while growing up. She remembers one year when 250 acres of her family's 700-acre farm in England, where mainly wheat and barley were grown, rotted because of heavy fog.

Tweddell says she likes recording the weather for the community.

"If I can get three or four people to be aware of what's going on and to appreciate our climate, which is drop dead gorgeous and with many resources in the county, it makes it worth doing.

"People need to focus on the surroundings and appreciate what we have," she said. "We need to conserve and take care of the earth."

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