Kennebec Man’s Passion Makes Weather Impact

Meet Charley Bowar

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Every day since May 6th of 1969, Charley Bowar has taken a temperature and precipitation observation from his home in Kennebec.

Charley took his first weather observations just two months before the United States made history, putting a man on the moon nearly 46 years ago.  

“That’s a lot of years” said Bowar.

Charley is an integral part to his community.

He is a veteran of the Korean War, and on top of his 46 years of service as a weather observer, he spent 51 years as a Kennebec volunteer fireman.

It’s this dedication and selflessness that has Tim Kearns of the Aberdeen bureau of the National Weather Service grinning ear to ear.

“I mean, the man has done it and has committed for 46 years to us, said Kearns, “and I couldn’t be more proud of Charley and couldn’t be more happy to put him in for any kind of award that I can possibly put him in for.”

Speaking of awards, Charley is swimming in them.

In 2002, he earned the John Campanious Holm Award, recognizing his 20-plus years of service.

“I couldn’t even believe that one,” laughed Boward.

Just eight years laterm, he was presented with the weather service’s most prestigious award–the Thomas Jefferson Award.

“Sometimes it takes two or three times to submit somebody before they are approved,” said Kearns. “Charley got it the first time through. That’s very rare, especially for the Jefferson.”

The Jefferson award is only given to five of the nation’s 10,000 observers every year. It’s given to someone who has at least 25 years of service and has already won the Holm Award.

Other things they look for when deciding on who to present these awards to is: quality of observations, longevity and civic duties. As mentioned, Charley is very involved in the town.

When I asked him how it made him feel to win that award, Charley was speechless, but after a couple seconds he answered, “I really can’t tell ya how I felt… I was happy”

Charley has had two days declared as “Charley Bowar Day” in South Dakota due to his hard work. The first was October 2, 2002 declared by Governor Janklow. The second came September 7, 2010 from Governor Rounds.  

While Charley reports on all types of weather, there is really only one type to make him smile–a good ol’ South Dakota thunderstorm

“Power, there’s a lot of power in a thunderstorm,” said Bowar with a huge grin.

While his favorite weather systems are thunderstorms, Charley has seen it all. He’s weathered brutal summer heat waves, and even mammoth blizzards.

“One time, it was after a big blizzard,” he said. “I walked out the door to go get the gauge and bring it in to melt the snow, and I couldn’t see it. It was completely covered with snow.”

Observations like Charley’s are key to defining the climate for South Dakota. These observations help to determine what is normal weather, helping to give climatologists a foundation for predicting future trends. The data is vital for scientists studying floods and droughts as well as heat and cold waves.

“Many, many uses for the data as far as even things like snow removal, and planning for upcoming years and how much salt and sand we’re going to use for the roads,” said Kearns. “We also use it for forecasting reasons.”

The old saying goes, “if you don’t like the weather in South Dakota, wait a couple minutes,” and while the weather may change, we know one thing that will stay the same–this local legend’s passion for the weather.

“I want to at least go to 50 years,”  said Bowar.

If you are interested in becoming a weather observer like Charley, all you need to do is call your local National Weather Service bureau, or you can email weather@kdlt.com and we will be sure to pass along your information to those who can help you out.

Kearns said that there is great need for weather observers in Blunt and Redfield.