Highland Home’s Charles Porter honored by National Weather Service

Published 8:17 pm Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Weather plays a major role in our daily lives, but for Highland Home’s Charles Robert Porter, the weather has been more than that.

Last Thursday, Porter received the highest honor given to weather watchers by Bill Proenza, the regional director for the National Weather Service, and by Dave McShane, meteorologist-in-charge for the National Weather Service forecast office in Mobile.

Also on hand to present the awards was hydro-meteorological technician Gene Jacobi from the National Weather Service.

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Porter, 81, was a 2008 recipient of the agency’s John Campanius Holm Award for having served as a volunteer weather observer for 45 years.

He has also served as a weather watcher for WSFA-TV for several years.

“This is the most significant achievement a weather observer can receive,” Proenza said. “Mr. Porter actually has Thomas Jefferson beat by five years when it comes to recording and reporting the weather.”

Proenza said there were 12,000 volunteers across the nation.

“These people are instrumental in building climate history,” he added. “Charlie Porter was instrumental in getting Highland Home selected as a Historical Climate Network site.”

After many accolades from Bill Proenza, Porter smiled brightly.

“Getting an award like this makes a country redneck feel as happy as a hound dog getting a belly rub,” Porter said, laughing.

“This is one time I don’t know what to say,” he added. “When John first told me about all of this, I didn’t believe him.”

When it came to looking back over his years of watching and recording the weather, Porter, who moved to Highland Home in the 1930s, remembers three hurricanes in particular that came through and did damage in Highland Home.

“And ice storms,” he said. “We’ve had some bad ones, but at least we haven’t had one in a long time.”

The biggest snow Porter remembers in the Highland Home area was in the 1970s, when 15 inches fell.

“I put my foot on Highway 331 and it stepped down through the snow and hit ice. That was really dangerous to have a sheet of ice underneath that snow.”

Plus, the biggest rain he remembers recording was 12 inches at one time.

“You couldn’t go anywhere—the bridges were just covered.”

Porter still reports the weather to the National Weather Service every day.

“You do it over the phone using a coding system,” he explained. “Forty-five years ago, I’d call the Weather Bureau office phone and give a verbal report, but now I enter the data over the phone.”

“People are more interested in the weather now than they used to be,” Porter explained. “That’s one of the first things people talk about is the weather.”

As interesting as all of the recording and observing is, there is a downside to being a weather watcher, Porter said.

“It ties you down,” he said. “You have to report your findings at 7 a.m. every day; then, you can go do what you want to do. But if something happens during the day, you have to call it in, so it can really tie you down.”

Is that going to stop Charles Porter from doing what he’s done for the last 45 years?

“I plan to continue to do it,” he said, smiling. “I’m not going to stop.”

Several members of the Highland Home Fire and Rescue along with family and friends gathered at the fire station for the award presentation. After the presentations, everyone enjoyed cake, hors d’oeuvres and punch with the guest of honor.