Weather-watcher Pat Reighard sees weather like few can

Jul. 13, 2013 @ 08:46 AM

His wood-trimmed weather station sits neatly on a shelf. A small netbook computer nearby monitors conditions across the region. Outside, an anamometer perched on a 10-foot staff above the metal roof of his home spins in the stiff wind amid a cluster of weather instruments, giving Pat Reighard instant feedback from the comfort of his desk.

The view from the house on Rocky Knob Road just south of Blowing Rock that Reighard and his wife, Fredel, had built in 1984 is postcard-perfect. From the large picture window is a bird's-eye view of the Pisgah National Forest, Grandfather Mountain and Table Rock. On really clear nights, the lights of Morganton are visible.

At an altitude of 3,333 feet, Reighard also has a front-row seat to the ridge line's fickle weather and clouds that often roll in unnanounced. Watching it fed a growing fascination with the weather and turned into a new hobby for the retired Appalachian State University communications professor.

"It's fun for me, especially in the winter," he said.

Reighard assembled his first weather station, a Heathkit weather computer, in the late '80s, but a bolt of lightning struck the house and fried it. He consulted Ray Russell, a colleage at ASU and a weather geek who now runs a website called Ray's Weather Center, for advice. He recommended a Davis wireless weather station, but it got knocked over and smashed.

His latest upgrade measures relative humidity, barometric pressure, current and cumulative rainfall, wind speed and direction, inside and outside temperature, including wind chill, and dew point. A solar panel powers the instruments and transmits the data to his desktop station.

When severe thunderstorms or hail drops in, he calls the National Weather Service or the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, a network of volunteers working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow).

"It's more of an avocation than a hobby," he said. "Since I have the instruments, I thought I could help out. Weather up here is such a factor, because of the wind. It's always changing, with different light and cloud formations."

The Reighards have no children, by design. They like to travel abroad, and recently returned from a trip to London, Paris and Normandy. But the first thing Pat does when he gets home is turn on the weather station to see what he missed.

"Why not?" he mused.