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official in charge, wbo tampa florida - ww talbot: his life and times


I was born in the long-whiskered days of the last century. The exact date has slipped my mind – Illinois wasn’t keeping vital statistics then. But the place – as I remember – was at the far end of the apple orchard on my grandfather’s farm, a couple of miles west of Tuscola, the old home town of Uncle Joe Cannon. In Coles County, just south of where I spent my first ten years, Abraham Lincoln used to split rails. When I was 10, my father bought a farm in Johnson County, Missouri, where he took his growing family to live. One of our neighbors just to the west, in Jackson County, was Harry Truman, at that time growing up on his father’s farm.

It was on our farm in Missouri that I first became conscious of the Weather Bureau. The flour mill at Holden, four miles away, had a big steamboat whistle that blared out the weather forecast every morning. Our lives were regulated by that whistle. Also, I had a schoolmistress who was everlastingly having us kids write themes on Missouri weather and the subject is inexhaustible. It aggravated my weather consciousness. Later, when I was away at school at Springfield, down south in the Ozarks, the teacher of my physics class took us to visit the local Weather Bureau office. It was then that the Bureau bug began to bite in earnest, and it was in Springfield that I later entered the Bureau.

In the year 1922, my ex-neighbor Harry Truman was elected Judge of the Jackson County Court, and I was boosted from First Assistant to Official in Charge at Springfield. Ten or twelve years later he went to Washington as Senator, and I came to Florida in charge of the Tampa office. Now he is President – and look at me!

Still, the Tampa Office has been the scene of a good deal of activity since 1932. An old-fashioned, one-horse city station at that time, we joined the hurricane network in 1935, added a first-class airport station in 1938, consolidated both Weather Bureau stations at the airport in 1941, and topped off with radiosonde work in 1943. And – this station is the first and only place in the world to shoot a radiosonde into the “eye” of a hurricane.

I claim a paternal interest in the Florida fruit-frost service. Only a few weeks after coming to Florida, I raised a hue and cry for a service similar to that of California. Along came the December 1934 freeze – and the whole citrus industry joined in the clamor. The Chief said all we needed was the money. We got it. And in the following July the Florida fruit-frost service was born.

Also, I took a hand in bridging the gap between the die-hard High and Low weathermen and the new Frontagonists. The first FRONTS on daily published weather maps in this country appeared in the Tampa newspapers in 1940.

My long suit is serving the public. I rarely utter a thing for a scientific audience, but I have made scores of after-dinner speeches, hundreds of radio broadcasts, and written thousands of daily weather stories for the newspapers. During the recent presidential crisis, the Tampa Daily Times never missed a front page weather story and the Times radio station never skipped a broadcast from our office mike.

My middle name is Wesley – Wes for short. My favorite sport is weather forecasting. I have been called the “Hurricane Hunter” but that title rightly belongs to Grady Norton.

My lesser hobbies include books, birds, trees, stars, and National Parks. My two major hobbies are my wife Eunice and my daughter Sharon.

In: “The BREEZE”, Volume 2, No. 5. June 10, 1945. P. 8-9.

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Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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