Three generations recognized
CATAWBA -- Seven days a week for the past 100 years in sun, snow and sleet, Faris family members have faithfully recorded precipitation levels in southeastern York County for the National Weather Service.
In recognition of this accomplishment, the Greenville/Spartanburg office of the National Weather Service recently gave Joe Faris Jr. the Family Heritage Award.
"It takes a lot of dedication sometimes to get up at 6:30 in the morning to trudge out there and check rainfall and temperature and things like that," said Vince DiCarlo, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "To see it go from one generation to another generation is pretty impressive."
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The information weather observers record helps the weather service study climate changes and make weather predictions, DiCarlo said. It's important to have these stations in places such as Catawba that don't have an airport, he said.
"Nobody lives at the airport," DiCarlo said. "If we can get information from different parts of the county, it allows us to improve our services."
Joe Faris' grandfather, James Faris Sr., started recording precipitation patterns in 1907 using a dipstick to calculate rainfall amounts. At that time, the job also involved measuring the water levels of the Catawba River.
Although most days, the job is pretty straightforward, there have been times over the past 100 years when recording the information wasn't easy.
One such day came in 1916 when rain from two hurricanes drenched the area, washing out all the bridges along the Catawba River and breaching the Lake Wylie dam. When the gauge he measured with was washed away, James Faris Sr.'s determination wasn't dampened. He took sticks and kept on measuring as the water rose, Joe Faris Jr. said.
"That was probably one of the biggest weather events that we've had in South Carolina that we have any recording of," he said.
When James Faris Sr. died in 1934, his son, James Faris Jr., Joe Faris' uncle, took over and kept the records for the next 60 years.
Joe Faris says he remembers going over to his uncle's as a child and watching him do the measurements.
"I always talked to my uncle about it whenever I would see him doing it over the years and just had an interest," Joe Faris said.
In 1994 when his uncle died, Joe Faris took over the family tradition.
Every day, he calls in the amount of precipitation and records it on a sheet that he mails monthly. He also indicates if there was thunder, sleet or snow.
If he isn't going to be home, Faris makes sure to have someone else do it for him.
With pay of about $125 a quarter, Faris said, "You don't really do it for the money."
For him, it's the tradition and knowing the importance of his work that makes it worthwhile. He hopes to pass that tradition on to the next Faris generation.
"The rain gauge is within half a mile from where it was 1907, so it gives a great deal of consistency to the precipitation data," he said. "Forecasters consider it to be very valuable just to have that consistency from year to year."