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About Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922 | View Entire Issue (Nov. 14, 1909)
PACC3 1 TO 4. .
TOR ALL THE NEWS THE
BEST IN THE WEST
VOL. XXXIX-NO. 22.
OMAHA, SUNDAY MORNING, NOVEMBER 14, 1909.
SINGLE COPY FIVE CENTS.
SOURCE OF WEATHER SUPPLY FOR OMAHA AND VICINITY
Workshop of Wizard Welsh and His Corps of lieutenants, Who Stand On the Watch Tower and Cry Out Meteorological Conditions to the People.
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f I fOBECtSTCR WELSH fjh dldK
MAW Of FJCE OF Tl WWTUER BUfllAU IM OMAHA
FOU OMAHA, Council Bluffs and Vicinity."
How many people have read this little legend with the
subjoined promise of "Fair tonight and Tuesday," or the
dlbooncerting warning, "probably rsin or snow; much
colder," without stopping to think bow much governmental
and scientific machinery has been kept ceaselessly in motion In order
that the promise or warning might accurately be given or what man
ner of men the government has selected In order that the human ele
ment in the making of the forecasts might be the highest order.
Probably no other public official comes so closely and so frequently
in contact with the great mass of the people as does the Weather fore
caster. The farmer scans the papei to see whether to cut his wheat
the next day or not. The city man consults him before taking an .
automobile rido far out into the country. The fruit merchant
watches closely for cold wave signals, the mariner for coast storm
warnings, the resident of the river valley looks carefully at the stage
of the river In early Bprlng when freshets are liable to occur. The
grain speculator eagerly devours reports of tha weather in the grain
belt and just as feverishly scans the prediction for the future. The
average man reads the dally forecast either as a matter of general
news or for the satisfaction of. having an expert opinion on the de
sirability of taking an umbrella to the office.
Social events naif, business deals go forward or stand still, grain
prices go up or down, all on the word of the weather forecaster. In
asmuch as he Is such an important part of the social and Industrial
organization, it is of interest for Omaha people to know something
of the personality of the man who for nearly thirty-seven years has
been keeping his weather eye out for the benefit of the public and for
eighteen years has been in Omaha on the weather frontier, as It were.
Colonel L. A. Welsh long ago became an integral part of Omaha; and
his husky physique and vigorous step evidence a vitality that prom
ises to keep htm here many a year longer. Entering the service
when it was but three years old, he has lived to become one of the
four or five "oldest" men for continuous connection with the work
and Is still In the full vigor of life.
It is not mere chance that the chief of the weather bureau has
stationed in Omaha one of his oldest veterans. Omaha is something
more than a point on the weather map. ' It is, as has been Bald, an
Important station on the weather frontier of the United States. It
Is the gateway eastward for "lows" and "highs" Just as it Is the
gateway for merchandise and farm machinery.
Glimpse of Map Shows
A glimpse at the map will disclose why this is so. Storms or
'other weather disturbances move always in the general direction 01
' west to cust. Aa a matter of fact, in the west they come either from
the southwest, directly west or northwest. While all of the aereaa
of disturbance do not pass directly over Omaha, there are few of
them which do not exert some pirceptible influence here on their
Journey to the east. The southwestern "lows" usually come far
enough north to give us a touch of weather, while the northwestern
disturbances usually dip down enough to nip us more or less severely.
Cities directly west of us usually eixape the northwestern and south
western storms, while those In the southwest or northwest are sub
ject to "lows" from the opposite sections to a less extent than the
centrally located city of Omaha.
Hence Omaha is both an Important weather center and one for
w hich it is somewhat difficult to make predictions with the same as
surance that they can be made in other sections of the country.
Then there is another reason for Omaha's importance on the
weather map. The west, the great plains and the mountains, has
moro or less Justly acquired the reputation of being the breeding
place of much of the weather which is turned loose In the more east
erly states. The "lows" which perambulate across the continent are
to a great extent only In their Incubating stage until they strike the
region this side of the mountains. They are Hot thoroughly developed
until they get well along In the Missouri valley. The eastern prog
nostlcator has the advantage of dealing with a well denned distur
bance by the time it reaches bis territory.
Colonel Welsh, the veteran who has been on the firing line in
Omaha lo, these many years, was born In Union county, Ohio. He
successfully sidesteps all Inquiries as to the date of his entrance into
yils vale of highs and lows, but th real curious may be able to figure
out about the time from the fact that he was habeas corpnsed out of
the army during the early part of the civil war, but in 1864 ran away
, a second time and joined tha One Hundred and Thirty-sixth Ohio,
I having in' the meantime passed the last milestone Into the mystic
country luto which the habeas corpus had no terrors for young
would-be soldiers. Practically his whole life has been spent In one
or anrther department of public service.
Yearn for Official Home
It is a tradition in his famly that when he was 5 years old, his
father having decided to move to town, the future weather forecaster
sat down upon an upturned bucket. and wept because he was not
going to live In the court house, that being the( largest building in
sight. As soon as be was old enough he sought the public service
and has been In It aver since with the exception of a few years imme
diately following the war.
At the close of the war the young soldier went back to the school
hehad deserted to take up arms and for four years gave himself up
to study. He Joined the great army of eountry school teachers for
three winters and finally went Into the produce commission business
with his brother-in-law. Then he went to IndlanapoUs. where h ac
ce)Jt3 a position traveling with a commission firm. His business
took him frequently to New York City and it was while there he be
came Interested in the signal service, tha weather branch of which
had bean organised tare years before. Ha took tha examination
and reported for instruction at Fort Myer, across the river from
It was August 1, 1873, that young Welch first became at
tached to the weather service ofSthe government. And those
early years were full '.pa and downs, not only for the service
Itself, but also for the ung pioneers in the work. At that
time salaries were meager and members of the service were in
clined to go into private enterprises to help eke out a living. To
prevent their becoming too much engrossed In the business af
fairs of any one community a rule was established that no mem
ber of the corps should be stationed at one place more than two
years. Consequently life was full of changes both of scene and
environment for the boys. Service In the signal corps furnished
an easy means of seeing the country, but a decidedly poor chance
of ever becoming permanently established in a community.
Mr. Welsh's first assignment was to Milwaukee, where he re
mained two years. Then he was ordered back to Washington
for further instruction and preparation in the science of the
work and in July, 1875, took charge of the station at Pittsburg.
The next few years he put in at various stations,, among them
Springfield, Mass.; Escanaba, Mich.; Champaign, 111.; Keokuk,
la.; Shreveport, La.; St. Louis and Leavenworth. While he was
stationed at Leavenworth, in 1888, he was-ordered to Kansas
City to open up a station there. The same year he came to
Omaha. He remained here until 1891, when he went back to
Leavenworth, eventually closing up the office and returning to
Omaha In 1893. For these sixteen years he has been here, find
ing time between forecasts to mingle with the active men of the
city until, aided ly an afflable and approachable manner and a
strong and striking physique, he has become one of the widest known
of Omaha's publlo citizens.
Four Men With Him
Under Colonel Welsh In the Omaha office are four other men, ex
perts In their respective lines, who assist in making and recording the
observations and distributing the results to the public. They are
M. V. Robins, observer and first assistant; Arthur Thorsen, assistant
observer; C. A. Alkln, printer, and Lyle E. High, messenger.
Mr. Robins has been in Omaha since June, 1902, coming here
from Huron, S. D., where he entered the service as messenger. He
has also been "on the job" In New Orleans and Kansas City. Mr.
Alkln la from Missouri and has been in the service about a year. Mr.
Thorson Is from Northwood, la., and has been here since June. Mr.
High Is an Omaha boy and has been with the bureau a little more
than a year.
Omaha as a point for weather observations is one of the oldest
on the map. The service was organized in 1870 and the records in
the Omaha office show observations were made here in November of
that year. At first a part of the military service the early years of
tha life of the new department were of slow progress because of the
hampering effect of the stiff military organization. The weather ob
servers were organized Into a little army themselves attached to the
signal corps and under charge of a military officer. The policy of
the department, as has been stated before, was to jump men from one
place to another with military precision, and hence there was little
permanency of residence and good men were slow to enter. Now, by
the way, the policy of the department has changed entirely and an
attache of the weather department Is practically sure of a perma
nent berth as long as his services are satisfactory. Under t'uls
broader policy hundreds of men belonging to the service become home
owners and permanent members of society In the community in which
they are stationed.
The military Incubus was thrown off by the department In 1891
under a law passed and approved the year previous. Since then the
work has been on a more scientific basis. Mark W. Harrington was
the first chief under the new order of things and he remained at the
head until 1896, when he was removed by President Cleveland at the
request of J. Sterling Morton, then secretary of agriculture. Prof.
Willis S. Moore, at that time a local forecaster in Chicago and an ex
pert of wide experience, was placed at the head.
Prof. Moore has raised the standards of the department fcince his
elevation to the chiefshlp.
Complimented by Chief
"He has conducted the work of the office in a very able manner"
Is the opinion of Colonel Welsh, "and it has made great advances
since he took charge of it. The benefits of the service to the public
have Increased a hundredfold since the transfer of the department to
the Agricultural department and most of the advance has been since
Prof. Moore took charge."
The work of the weather bureau Is diverse and many-sided in its
nature. The dally forecasts, of course, are most often seen by the
publlo and mean most to- the average man. The dissemination of
warnings as to sudden and severe changes in weather conditions,
such as cold waves, storms, hurricanes, heavy rains and snows and
frosts, Is another feature of the work which brings it in close touch
with the readers of the dally newspapers. But few people probably
understand the importance to commerce and industry of these activi
ties of the weather force. It Is known that hurricane warnings on
the Atlantic coast have detained In port over 130,000,000 worth of
traffic. Advance announcements of a single cold wave have been
known to save over $3,500,000 In the protection of property which
otherwise would have been exposed.
Frost warnings have become almost invaluable to the fruit indus
try of California, Florida, Colorado end the north Pacific coast, where
fruit raisers have large sums invested In tents, screens and smudge
apparatus for the protection of their crops. These are put Into use
on receipt of news from the department that a cold wave or a frost
Is due and thus entire crops ma; be saved, It baa fceea determined
of the readings are made up there. Down in the carpeted office of
the bureau a half dozen or more metalic fingers are busy recording
every change in weather conditions, even to the time a cloud passes
over the faco of the sun and how long It takes it to pass. These ma
chines work ceaselessly and every twenty-four hours the lined and
ruled papers on which they are graphically telling their story are re
moved from the rolls and filed away for future use.
When a 7 o'clock reading time comes around the first thing that
is done is to read the mercurial baiometer to determine the pressure
or weight of the atmosphere. This barometer is as big and In out
ward appearance not altogether unlike a grandfather's clock. The
exact reading of the barometer Itself does not satisfy the weather
sharps. The temperature Itself slightly affects the condition of the
mercury and that Initial reading is corrected by a reading of the
thermometer. Then, to make assurance doubly sure, this corrected
reading is compared with a tracing on-an aneroid or barograph
which automatically and continuously leaves on a scroll of paper the
state of a barometer up on the roof.
' Now, this automatic recorder of weather conditions Is a stranga
and wonderful affair, a scientific description of which would only
lead to mental confusion outside of a weather bureau office. But on
can give an untechnlcal account of its. appearance and what It does.
Called a Triple Register
on investigation that the value of the orange bloom, vegetables and
strawberries saved by this means In a single night in a limited dis
trict in Florida was over $100,000.
The prediction of floods on rivers Is also an Important part of the
work of the department with which the main body of the public la not
as familiar as it is with the weather forecasts.
The department was instrumental In saving $15,000,000 worth
of property by foretelling the rise of the lower Mississippi one year
long enough in advance to enable the residents of the lowlands to re
move their property.
From three weeks to four days In advance warnings were Issued
before the big floods of 1903 In the Mississippi vaUey, and so accu
rate were the data secured by the department and the deductions
made from thera that the predictions of the department did not vary
more than four-tenths of a foot from the actual conditions recorded.
The average difference was about two-tenths of a foot.
Besides these warnings Issued from day to day thousands of peo
ple make use of the collective data of the department to determine
probable crop conditions, the desirability of certain parts of, the coun
try for various industries, the probable strains to which big buildings
will be subjected owing to expansion and contraction, heat and cold
and the wind.
Wireless a New Adjunct
The wireless has lately come to be an important adjunct of the
weather bureau, especially to thost) stations lying on the Atlantic and
gulf coaBts. Boats far out In the ocean can sometimes give warnings
to the coast stations, which are then dessiminated to other vessels.
More often, however, the situation la reversed and the coast stations
by means of the wireless notify vessels of the approach of storms.
There is a lot of complicated instrument reading and nice calcu
lating to be done before the local weather forecaster Is ready to an
nounce the probabilities for the next day. In the first place, in addi
tion to tho statistics of the local conditions, each office receives re
ports from many stations located all over the country. Tho Omaha
office, for instance, gets about 100 reports eacn day telegraphed In by
a code which is not used for secrecy, but to cut down telegraph tolls.
These reports give the temperature, the wind velocity, the air pres
sure and the cloud conditions at 7 o'clock, Omaha time, In cities scat
tered all over the co"Ury from the Canadian northwest to Northfleld,
Vt. Colonel Welsh takes the figures and evolves from them certain
lines and curves which he puts on the weather map. This when
completed gives him a blrd'seye view, as It were, of the weather at
the time the observations were taken. He draws Isobars and Iso
therms, mystic circles and evil-looking arrows pointed in all direc
tions. As a matter of fact a few minutes' explanation by Colonel Welsh
clears up all tho cloudiness in the mind of an inquirer and makes
these seemingly mfsllc symbols as familiar as the first three letters
of the alphabet.
The isobars or continuous lines puss through those places which
have equal air pressure. The Isotherms or dotted lines on the map
pass through those points having equal temperatures. The circles
with the white interiors meau clear weather at the points they desig
nate. Those half hlte and half black indicate partly cloudy and
those entirely black show "cloudy." The arrows point in the direc
tion the wind Is blowing at the time of observation.
Hih and Dry
Here and there on the map appear the words "high" and "low."
These designate the points of high and low air pressure, and It should
further be explained that the "lows" are to be blamed for the dis
turbances In the weather such as storms, high winds, rains and snows.
After the large map showing all these things is made up a smaller
one is reproduced from It and turned over to the printer, who makes
up the forms for the familiar map we see on every corner.
The weather recording instruments, as is well known, are located
In a covexod ftlaUurm on the root of the Federal building, but few
It Is called a triple register, or rain, wind and sunshine recorder.
One part of It is a clock connected electrically with wires running
from It to the weather recording instruments on the roof on one side;
on the other with a cylinder scroll. That clock, by the way, la al
ways kept covered by a dust proof casing. The cylinder scroll U
crossed from side to side with light lines and the cylinder revolves at
a' speed which causes the lines to progress In tha revolution the dis
tance of the space between the lines in exactly five minutes of time.
Daintily poised over this cylinder are a number of metal fingers
holding pens In their tips, and the movement of each pen Is deter
mined by the movement of the recording Instruments on the roof;
the fingers translate, so to speak. Into pen lines what those Instru
ments on the root electrically, say to the clock, Now, for Instance,
the rain gague on the roof connected with tha clock there are oth
ers Is the type known as the tipping bucket.
This is a little metal trough divided crosswise by a thin partition
of metal. The trough la evenly balanced, see-eawwlse, and the end
of the trough pointing upward receives any ralnf alL Then when one
one-hundredth of an Inch of rain has fallen 'that end of the bucket
tips down and the other end tips up to receive tho next allotment of
The tipping motion makes or breaks rn electrical connection
which makes its little remark electrically to the clock, and the clock
faithfully confides the state of the rainfall to the little finger over
the scroll devoted to such information, and a mark Is made on the
scroll which, to even the layman, says in the five minutes between
8:15 and 8:20 one one-hundredth, or several one-bundredths, aa
many as the case may be, inches of rain fell.
The whirling half cups at Ihe very tip of the tower on top of the
weather bureau building carry on a continuous conversation with that
clock attached to the register. Whirl they fast or whirl they slow,
the rate of whirling Is denoted every minute of the twenty-four hours
by the wire running to the clock, and as the minute hand goes ronnd
a little cam goes around with It and upsets something which breaks
or makes an electrical connection, Imparting the momentum of tho
half balls to the little finger resting over the scroll tirelessly record
ing the wind velocity.
Now as to the roof source of gossip concerning sunshine and
clouds, take It from the reporter that a comprehensible description of
it for the lay mind Is outside of the uses of the English language.
Still it is pleasing to know what the whimsical little thing looka like.
Minutia of Mechanism '
In the first place, there Is a cylinder of glass enclosing another
cylinder of glass. One end of this enclosed cylinder Is blackened,
and It has a mercury tube inside of it. This enclosed cyllndsr has a
constricted waist into which enter a couple of tips of wire, aa tha
wires which make Incandescent lights enter tha bulb.
Now if the sup shines something In the physical nature of the
light of the sun causes It to affect the mercury In the tub of tha
darkened end of the Instrument in such a way as to advance the mer
cury up to the tips of the electrified wires, and thus tha curious llttla
instrument Imparts to the register by means of the clock tha Inter
esting information that the sun shines. If a cloud obscures the sun
the undarkened end of the lnstiument has Its turn In the weather
gossip and gets Into conversation with the clock, which tells tha story
to that particular little pen finger daintily resting over the scroll, and
the equally Interesting fact that the weather Is cloudy Is accurately
noted, with the time of day also Indicated,
To go back to the roof. Another Instrument up there records
the rainfall by weight, and weighs so delicately that the readers ar
thereby informed of each one one-thousandth Inch of precipitation.
Then as to temperature and humidity, there la a psychrometer, an
apparatus on which is mounted two thermometers of the familiar
type. They are alike except that the bulb of one Is wrapped about
These twin theromometers are mounted on an apparatus which
permits of their being rapidly revolved, like the arms of a patent egg
beater. The uses of the Instrument are, by wet and dry reading as
It Is called, first to determine tho degree of temperature as It affects
us mortals and then how It would affect us minus the prevalent hu
midity. After the ordinary reading the muslin-covered bulb Is moist
ened. Then you turn a crank and the thermometers whirl about.
The moistened rag surrounding the bulb Is affected as one's perspir
ing face is by a fan, and then it Is read again. The second reading
tells you how you would feel of there was no moisture In tha air. If
there was no moisture wa could play golf or dig ditches In a tempera
ture of 100 without danger of beat prostration,
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