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December 20, 2013

National Weather Service honors 50-year volunteer

By Mark Simonson Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — When Lester Constable of Unadilla woke up one day 50 years ago, he had no idea he was about to start a new job as a cooperative weather observer for the National Weather Service.

“My neighbor quit, so he passed it on over to me,” Constable recalled Wednesday at a special awards presentation and lunch held at the Trackside Diner in Sidney. That neighbor was Carl Haas, who brought the equipment furnished by the National Weather Service over to Constable’s home and taught him how to use it.

Neighbors could practically set their watches by Constable each morning these past 50 years. First in Unadilla, and now from his home on Martin Brook Road, Constable has been going out just before 7 a.m. in any kind of weather to conduct readings and measurements before heading out to work at his former plumbing and heating business. 

“I’ve never missed a day — except for one time when I went to Texas for two months,” Constable conceded, noting that he got a substitute to fill in during that time. 

Constable is not retiring, and plans to continue observations for as long as possible. For his service to date, he received an American flag, an NWS service pin, attractive wall plaque and a gift card.

“He’ll be back for his 60th,” Barbara Watson, meteorologist-in-charge of the NWS in Binghamton, quipped.

“I’ll have to crawl out to do it by then,” Constable, 79, joked back.

In addition to Constable’s 50 years of volunteer service to the NWS, David Mattice of Emmons was also honored for 30 years on the job — also with no end yet in sight.

Constable and Mattice are two of nearly 11,000 volunteers across the U.S. in the NWS Cooperative Observer Program, begun in 1890 by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The program is administered locally by the NWS office in Binghamton.

Mike Nadolksi, NWS observation program leader, said Constable and Mattice take temperature and precipitation readings each day, and are among 72 other observers in 24 counties covering upstate New York and northeast Pennsylvania.

“It’s all very important to us, what they do,” Nadolski said. “All this data goes to the National Climatic Data Center in North Carolina. They keep the climatology records across the United States,” which is used for a variety of purposes.

Watson added that the observers’ work helps the NWS with daily forecasts and keeping track of river levels. 

“Their dedication is phenomenal,” Nadolski said of Constable, Mattice and all the cooperative observers in our region.