Watching the snow melt isn’t a particularly popular pastime, but one Payson weather aficionado happens to indulge himself occasionally.
When it snows, flakes melt into a plastic bucket roughly six feet off the ground, which hangs from a 35-foot-high pole in Bruce Rasch’s backyard weather set up.
A silver dipper inside topples back and forth like a seesaw, measuring the precipitation. One inch of rain sends the dipper back and forth 100 times. Rasch posts the weather information he collects at weather.astro50.com.
Mrs. Rasch doesn’t share Mr. Rasch’s addiction. “She thinks I’m nuts,” he said.
Even a gentle breeze during a February afternoon sends the anemometer on the pole’s top spinning as it measures wind speed.
Every two-and-a-half seconds, data from the set up is wirelessly transmitted to a computer inside Rasch’s home.
A sailing junkie, Rasch began tracking the weather back in 1988 to see when heavy winds made for the best sailing.
“I’m a computer guy anyway,” he said. Indeed, Rasch has semi-retired from his technology support work, but sill fields questions from those having problems. And everyone, it seems, has computer issues.
In the ’80s, Rasch lived in California. After avoiding a crash on his dirt bike, he sought a new hobby. A sailor friend introduced him to the open sea experience.
“That makes you want to know all about the weather, too,” Rasch said.
Eight years ago, he moved to Payson. Initially, he opted not to indulge his affinity for tracking weather patterns. But, the news never had temperatures for Payson. “I didn’t like it that they never had the facts for here,” he said.
In 2004, his wife asked what he wanted for Christmas and Rasch asked for a backyard weather station.
By then, the technology had improved so information could be transmitted wirelessly. In 2005, he began posting Payson weather to the Web.
Rasch, 60, is a laid back fellow with the easy demeanor of a surfer. Perhaps spending so much time surrounded by water contributes to a person’s sense of peace. A short gray beard frames his merry smile, and a mop of gray hair tops his head.
He moved to Payson for the open space, because he wanted to replicate the feeling that comes while sailing — surrounded by open space and engulfed by large vistas.
You can’t find that in California, and so he found his peace in one of Payson’s woodsier neighborhoods.
For 60 years, Payson pioneer Anna Mae Deming collected information for the National Weather Service before she died in 2008. After her death, several Rim Country residents volunteered to take over the duty, Rasch among them.
However, he soon learned of the rigmarole involved in reporting to the weather service, which includes calling in information despite the ability of wireless transmissions. He also found that the weather service makes things more complicated than necessary.
When he asked about measuring snow, Rasch received a complex spiel.
“Shoot, it goes in a thing, you melt it, it’s water. How much easier can it be?” he wondered.
Rasch can’t predict the weather, just report it. If he could predict the weather, Rasch says he’d live in a log cabin high on the mountain and once in while run down the hillside to a sailboat.
Rasch enjoys his anonymity, and also his unofficialness. “I don’t want to be official. I just want to be me,” he said.
“I like to know what the temperature is,” he added. It’s nice to know if you’ll step outside and slip all over the place.
In the morning, Rasch looks out his window and watches the anemometer spin. He can just about guess how fast the wind is blowing by how fast the instrument turns.
Higher hills on his property might have made better places for the weather gauging set up. But then he wouldn’t have had the view he wanted.
And for some people, a view’s quality is gauged not only by what is present, but also by what is absent — the fewer the people, the better. As long as the wind is blowing, preferably with a sailboat close by.