Weather Observer, 101, Has Logged 84 Years

Richard G. Hendrickson, seen here in 2007, has been a volunteer United States Cooperative weather observer since 1930. Carissa Katz

Richard G. Hendrickson, a volunteer United States Cooperative weather observer since 1930, will be honored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for his longstanding service on Sunday at the National Weather Service's weather forecast office in Upton.

"Since Hendrickson is the first in the history of the program to serve for more than eight decades, the new 80-year service award will be named in his honor," according to an announcement on the NOAA website.

Mr. Hendrickson, who is 101, has been recording the weather conditions, including wind direction, temperatures, and precipitation, twice a day at his farm in Bridgehampton since he was 18, before NOAA existed, reporting his data in earlier years to the United States Weather Bureau.

He is still at it at 101, said his granddaughter Sara Hendrickson. "He still gets up every day to do it."

The station in his backyard is the size of a large birdhouse. It has slatted sides and doors and holds two thermometers that record the highs and lows for each 12-hour period of the day. Near it, there is a rain collector that allows him to measure precipitation and a snow board that helps him calculate snowfall. A wind vane in a field a few yards away aids in determining wind direction.

A farmer like his father before him, for Mr. Hendrickson checking the weather "went hand in hand with farming," his granddaughter said Tuesday. "It was part of his everyday life anyway."

Being a volunteer weather observer "is seven days a week and he's proud to do it," she said. "He just feels that it's his obligation. And it's kept him sharp. It gives him a reason and a purpose."

On the NOAA website, Ross I. Dickman, the meteorologist in charge at the New York weather forecast office, described volunteer observers like Mr. Hendrickson as "the bedrock of weather data collection." The thousands of weather measurements Mr. Hendrickson has collected over more than eight decades have helped "build the climate record for Long Island," he said.

Mr. Hendrickson is the author of two books, "Winds of the Fish's Tail: Eastern Long Island Weather Observations and Folklore," published in 1996, and "From the Bushy Plain of Bulls Head: Whisperings and Wanderings," published in 2006.

In addition to sharing his data with the National Weather Service, he submits monthly reports summarizing the weather to local newspapers. More than mere records of measurements and temperatures, they are filled with words of wisdom gained over decades of closely watching climate, development, and the unfolding history of the South Fork, particularly Bridgehampton. They include reminiscences from times past, references to weather at the same point in other years, and warnings about the power of the ocean and global warming.

In a report written at the end of July 2007, when he had completed 77 years of weather observations, Mr. Hendrickson recalled how things were when he began volunteering in 1930: "This was the Depression period. Milk was 20 cents a quart, delivered to your door, and eggs were 24 cents a dozen. A good carpenter was $2 a day, if he could get a job! It all changed after the 1938 hurricane. Those affected had to have the door, window, chimney or roof replaced."

"From our farm northward to the moraine of hills were two miles of sparkling and dazzling golden fields of corn, wheat, and potatoes, all dancing in motion with the evening sunshine breeze."

The award presentation on Sunday will be at 9:45 a.m. before an open house at the Upton weather forecast office.