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Working Stiff

Florist keeps one eye to the sky

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Mark Cook stands in front of one of the pieces of equipment that makes up the Sunnyside weather station. Every day Cook crosses the street from his flower shop on Edison Avenue to check the high and low temperatures for the National Weather Service in Pendleton, Ore.

On crisp, autumn mornings people can often be heard talking about just how cold it got the night before. But there is one man in town who not only notices the dip in temperatures but has a duty to report them.

Sunnyside's Mark Cook heads out to the grassy knoll across the street from his flower shop, pulls out his keys and unlocks a simple wooden box that contains the high and low temperatures for the previous day and night.

Cook doesn't simply check the temperatures for his own knowledge. Instead, Cook is in charge of collecting the temperature and rainfall data for the Sunnyside weather station, reporting his findings every day to the National Weather Service in Pendleton, Ore.

Cook, who took several climatology classes at the University of Montana, said when he saw an ad in the newspaper looking for someone to man the station, he knew it was something he had to do.

"I think it's neat," Cook said.

Cook said growing up in Montana he went to school thinking he wanted to be a forest ranger. He added that living in the mountains of Montana with a father who was a logger may have played a part in his interest.

However, instead of being a forest ranger Cook ended up owning a flower shop in downtown Sunnyside. And it's the location of his shop that made watching the weather seem like a natural thing to do.

Cook said when he responded to the advertisement in the Daily Sun News he told officials at the National Weather Service that his business was located directly across the street from the equipment he would be checking every day.

The situation worked out perfectly and for the past four years Cook has dutifully been walking across the street at 8 a.m. every morning to collect data on the local weather.

Cook said he uses an alcohol thermometer to keep track of the overnight lows and a mercury thermometer to check on the previous day's high temperature. He also has a thermograph that is calibrated to show what temperature it was at what time of the day.

However, high and low temperatures aren't the only things Cook regularly checks. There is also equipment there that measures the amount of precipitation.

After tracking the data he collects from the weather station, Cook heads back to his office at the flower shop where he sits down, and using a special phone he sends the data to Pendleton. The phone is set up so he uses the keys to type in the day's high and low temperatures and precipitation rates. Then he speed dials the National Weather Service and the phone does the work of transferring the data.

Cook isn't the first person in Sunnyside to keep track of local weather patterns for the National Weather Service. He said Sunnyside has been reporting data to the station since 1896, noting that he has all of the old ledgers.

"I could tell you what the weather was like on your birthday," Cook said.

All of the data Cook sends off to Pendleton every day is collected by the weather service and once a month Cook gets a bound copy of all of the information.

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