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Local family receives award

Local family receives award

FAIRMONT–The National Weather Service in the Twin Cities was honored to present the Family Heritage Award to the Theobald-Schlaphoff family of rural Sherburn during a virtual ceremony on January 19th. The family has taken daily weather measurements for the National Weather Service as a Cooperative Weather Observer on their farm for two generations.

“It was an emotional experience as their extended family was able to join us during the virtual ceremony as we honored family members who have helped with the observations over the years,” said Michelle Margraf, with the National Weather Service Twin Cities office. “This is an incredible family, and we were so grateful to have the opportunity to present them with the Family Heritage Award to recognize their years of service.”

It all began when Francis Theobald took the first observation on August 1, 1966. These observations have continued and have nearly elapsed 20,000 observations to date. Paul Schlaphoff took over measurements from his father-in-law in 1994, with assistance from his wife Irene Schlaphoff, who is Francis’s daughter. When Paul passed away in 2019 after serving for 25 years, Irene took over as the main observer, assisted by her brother Jim Theobald.

The Theobald-Schlaphoff family provides daily measurements of temperatures, precipitation, snowfall, and snow depth as well as monthly updates of hourly precipitation data, which are a treasured part of Minnesota’s climate record. Some of the daily record weather events measured by the family include 12 inches of snow, 4.80 inches of rain, a high temperature of 103 degrees and a low temperature of 30 below zero.

“The readings are especially valuable with helping to determine how the climate is changing with time across South Central Minnesota and will be a treasured resource for years to come,” Margraf said. “We are honored to be able to support them as they continue to serve their community in this unique way. They are an inspiration to everyone who aspires to do something special to serve their community.”

The National Weather Service Family Heritage Award is presented to cooperative weather observers who have taken daily observations for 50 years or more. According to Margraf, most Family Heritage Award recipients are families who have taken observations for at least two generations. The award is also given every 25 years after, so some families have received a 75 year, 100 year, and in a few cases a 125 year Family Heritage Award.

“We are so grateful to the Theobald-Shlaphoff family for sharing daily weather observations with the National Weather Service for over two generations,” Margraf said. “Having a 50+ year record of daily weather observations in one location is priceless. The family has taken over 20,000 observations in all types of weather on their farm in rural Sherburn, providing a priceless archive of Minnesota’s weather history.”

The fact that this cooperative weather observing site has remained in the same location for 55 years with little change in the surrounding landscape makes this station a resource for the National Weather Service, climatologists, and many others across South Central Minnesota.

“This long-term weather record is only possible due to the dedication of the family, and it was an honor to have the opportunity to present them with the National Weather Service Family Heritage Award,” Margraf said. “A heartfelt thank you to the Theobald-Schlaphoff Family.”

Margraf stated that she and the National Weather Service Twin Cities are honored to be able to support the family as they continue to serve their community. Margraf described them as an inspiration to everyone who aspires to do something special to serve their community.

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