Arrow-right Camera


Weather Watcher Retired Postal Carrier Observes Spokane’s Weather Patterns

SATURDAY, AUG. 5, 1995

Harry Vaughan Jr. watches weather like some people watch their kids.

His gauges are his boys. His volumes of statistics are the family scrapbooks.

The retired postal carrier has tracked weather in Spokane for 60 years. He’s an official observer for the National Weather Service.

His hobby might sound as dull as a gray day in January, but to Vaughan, every day is different. Mention the weather and Vaughan sits up a little more straight.

“I can’t explain it,” the 79-year-old said. “Most people think it’s monotonous.”

Vaughan is so consumed by weather that he keeps his wristwatch set to Pacific Standard Time year-round because he takes his readings on standard time.

Wind gauges adorn the roof of his Shadle Park home. A box in the back yard looks like a rabbit hutch, but houses thermometers and a humidity gauge.

Inside his home, an extra bedroom is devoted to weather. Gauges and a cloud chart are mounted on the wall. Books on the weather line the shelves. Three-ring binders hold charts containing handwritten entries of the daily highs and lows and other weather statistics compiled over the years.

Vaughan still uses the same barometer he bought while a student at North Central High School in the 1930s. It measures air pressure to detect changes in weather.

Vaughan is picky about this gauge. He only taps the glass twice a day to determine if air pressure is rising or falling by the movement of the needle.

He starts recording weather statistics at 7 a.m., and makes hourly notations through 7 p.m. He breaks only for vacation.

He and his wife, Marion, laugh about the time in 1950 when Vaughan overslept and missed his morning readings.

That was before they were married. They went to a concert on a date the previous night, and Vaughan got home well past midnight.

Ironically, it was the coldest period of weather in Vaughan’s records. The temperature plunged to minus 23 degrees the morning after their date.

The cold didn’t stop the couple from warming up to each other. They’ve been married 43 years. They have no children.”It gives him something to do,” she said.They keep a radio tuned to continuous weather broadcasts. Since they don’t have cable TV, they can’t watch the Weather Channel.

Their lives are marked by weather extremes. They said they’ll never forget the thunderstorm of Aug. 1, 1972, that knocked out power and dumped the highest hourly rainfall in the Vaughan record book at 1.32 inches.

The hottest day in the logs is Aug. 4, 1961, when the mercury rose to 108 degrees. Their hottest summer was 1968 when the thermometer went above 90 degrees 45 times.

That summer was followed by one of the coldest and snowiest winters ever here. The Vaughans recorded 97.4 inches of snow that year, compared with an average in Spokane of about 50 inches.

The coldest temperature reading in the Vaughan logs is Feb. 1, 1950, at minus 24. That came during another brutal winter.

Vaughan’s interest in the weather runs in the family.

During the Civil War, his grandfather wrote weather observations in his diary, and his father kept track of the weather, too, he said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

Tags: profile

Click here to comment on this story »