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Signs of the season

Steprock man watches weather for the National Weather Service

This article was published March 2, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.


Robert Rowland of Steprock is an official weather watcher and storm spotter for KATV in Little Rock and KAIT in Jonesboro, in addition to working on a volunteer basis for the National Weather Service.

Robert Rowland has been fascinated with weather since he was a kid. His fascination started paying off in 2009, when he moved to Steprock and became a cooperative observer for the National Weather Service.

“That means I turn in daily weather to the National Weather Service,” Rowland said.

He reports temperatures and rainfall in his area to the National Weather Service each day.

In addition to working on a volunteer basis for the National Weather Service, Rowland is also an official weather watcher and storm spotter for KATV in Little Rock and KAIT in Jonesboro.

“Anytime there’s significant severe weather, they’ll call me,” he said. “I’ve done on-air interviews with both stations.”

Rowland reports to the television stations if he sees a funnel cloud or severe weather in his area, he said.

His grandfather passed down his interest in the weather to Rowland, he said.

“He got me interested in weather years ago, and it started when I was young,” Rowland said.

He had bought weather books and studied the weather before he was selected as a cooperative observer.

“I’ve taken some weather-spotting courses through the Weather Service,” he said.

Before Rowland moved to Steprock, he didn’t have the opportunity to become a cooperative observer because someone already had the spot in his town of Augusta. Becoming a cooperative observer was something he has wanted to do for a long time, he said.

“When I moved down here in 2009, they didn’t have anybody here, so I was finally chosen,” he said. “I’ve been doing the weather-watching for the television stations before that, but when you’re picked to be a cooperative — that’s pretty exciting, and an honor.”

Arkansas weather, in particular, is interesting to Rowland.

“In Arkansas, the weather is always changing. One day it can be 80 degrees, and the next day it can be 30,” he said. “There’s always something exciting and new. If you want to have a thunderstorm and snow in the same week, in Arkansas, you can usually get it.”

Rowland works as a dispatcher for the Arkansas State Police, where he has earned a nickname for his interest in the weather.

“I’m known as Weather Bob at work,” he said. “I’ve also got a Facebook page, Weather Bob Rowland, where I put weather updates and information.”

His job as a dispatcher also helps him out as a cooperative observer. While he’s at work, the state troopers Rowland works with can relay weather reports to him while they are out patrolling.

He said that for Severe Weather Awareness Week 2014, which starts today, he plans to post various updates about severe weather on his Facebook page and Twitter feed.

“A lot of people get their warnings and weather updates [from social media],” he said. “I subscribe to a service, called ReadyWarn, which automatically posts warnings and watches for me if I’m not available to post it.”

Though he has a Judsonia mailing address, Rowland’s official weather-spotting location is Steprock, where he lives.

“I post updates on White County and the bordering counties — Independence, Jackson, Woodruff and Cleburne,” Rowland said.

There’s more to being a storm spotter and weather watcher than reporting what he sees outside.

“We look for different cloud formations and different rotations. Not every cloud you see is a funnel cloud,” Rowland said.

To contact Rowland, follow him on Twitter @robertrowland or find him on Facebook by searching Weather Bob Rowland.


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