When Kelly Butt checks the weather every morning, he’s not relying on meteorologists to tell him what to expect.
The volunteer weather-watcher has his own backyard contraption that monitors everything from humidity to wind speeds — data he uses to predict, all on his own, what’s in store for the St. John’s region.
Butt woke up to a jarring discovery earlier this month: his brand-new, $2,000 station had stopped reporting conditions.
On closer inspection, he realized it’s because the entire two-metre tall machine had been uprooted and pilfered under cover of darkness.
“They drove up to this fence in a vehicle — my guess is probably a truck,” Butt says, pointing at tire tracks still visible on his neighbour’s lawn.
“They would have had to jump this fence.”
He guesses someone yanked it out of the ground, tossed it back over the fence, and took off, hoping they might be able to turn a quick profit. Butt said it’s unlikely anyone would buy it.
“You would need a console or something to receive this data. Without it, it’s essentially useless. So whoever has this thing basically has a seven-and-a-half foot piece of metal and plastic,” he said.
“It’s not like it’s a barbecue, or an ATV, or tools, or something that you could use.”
Butt measures weather data on his own time, but often sends that data to Environment Canada meteorologists. Civilian input helps the agency make its predictions. The more stations, the better.
“There are only a few official stations,” Butt explains. “So it’s nice to have some volunteer stations in the area to fill in that gap, to have better data.”
Butt said police have started an investigation, and social media-savvy fans are pitching in by circulating images of the station, pleading for its safe return.
Jennifer Waye, who avails of Butt’s weather data on Twitter, started a GoFundMe campaign last week to raise money for a replacement if it’s not found, despite never having met Butt in the flesh.
“It’s just so discouraging,” Waye said of the theft. “These guys provide the weather for us … they’re providing us with a valuable service.”
As of Sunday afternoon, Waye’s campaign had raised nearly enough for another station — restoring some of Butt’s faith in humanity.
“I don’t even have any words. I can’t say thank you enough,” he said.
“It’s getting pretty close to being able to buy this thing again … it’ll be back up and running in hopefully no time.”
He pauses, then laughs.
“Definitely going to have some security cameras with it next time, though.”