And then there were three…

2008-12-19 00:47:56.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

5. No wait, 4. Um, make that 3.

When I was a kid, Saturday mornings were great. No school, no homework, and cartoons in the mornings. On ABC, one of the cartoons I always looked forward to were a series of animated musical educational short films called Schoolhouse Rock! They lasted about three minutes each and had topics that ranged in topics of math, grammar, science, money, and politics. What was great were the tunes which were catchy and memorable so I was learning while being entertained. One of the most memorable and one that I still remember to this day was entitled “Three is a Magic Number.”

The first verses of the song go:
Three is a magic number,
Yes it is, it’s a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number.

Definitely worth looking up on youtube. But why do I bring this up? Because, currently we are down to two observers with one in training, making us a crew of three, the magical number that allows us to function fairly normal. This isn’t the first time nor the last time I have been on a crew of three, especially considering that when I started, three was the norm. When I started, our crew consisted of two observers, one intern, and one volunteer, if we were lucky. The volunteer program wasn’t as well known which made it difficult to find people to come up from week to week. So, most weeks, we only had three.

Flash forward to today and a typical week sees five to seven people on a crew at any given time. A typical crew now consists of three observers, one or two interns and one or two volunteers. The expansion of personnel isn’t because we were lonely up here but because as time has progressed, so have the duties and tasks that need to be done up here. I can personally say that I had more free time when I first started and was on a crew of three than I do now working on a crew of five or more. And the main contributor of this increase of work load is a little thing called technology.

As technology evolves, we must evolve with it. Technology is what allowed for an IT observer to get hired on each shift. Technology is what allowed for our Educational observer to get hired on each shift to do video conferencing with schools next year. Technology is also keeping the Meteorological observers busy as we continually update manuals to adjust to the changes as well as finding new ways to improve forecasting skills and documentation.

Our interns help us function filling in and helping out whenever possible allowing us to focus on finishing one task or lending a helping hand on other tasks. Our volunteers are the last pillar that makes everything function smoothly taking care of the little tasks that would normally take time away from doing our job descriptions. When all these cogs are in place, the machine that is the observatory runs efficiently. Take away one or more of these cogs, and the remaining cogs have to run around extra hard to keep the machine running as normal.

And that is where we find ourselves today, three cogs, er, I mean observers, working on the summit keeping things going as normal. Our volunteer for the week was unable to make it up and one of our observers, Brian Clark, was unable to come up as well due to a slight injury he procured on his week off. So, it is a return to the “olden days” for me and a reality check for the newbie’s. And so far, so good. We are not wasting away from lack of cooking. We are keeping things clean. And we are keeping up with our tasks as usual.

But this is not the end of our staffing fluctuations. In the coming weeks, interns are either off for the holidays (Jordan), leaving (Jeff), starting (Ali), or becoming observers on the other shift (Mike C). We will either have one or two volunteers coming up and Brian will hopefully get better and come up either later this week or next shift. Although our numbers will be fluctuating, the thing to remember is: We are one observatory that needs two observers to keep the summit working but three is prime, four is core, and five (or more) lets us thrive.


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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