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Keeping tabs on the weather

Brooksby’s resident meteorologist monitors rain and snow accumulation

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February 16th, 2016
Wes Byrd measures rain and snow accumulation
Wes Byrd measures rain and snow accumulation

Brooksby resident Marie Wakefield had big plans during last winter’s unprecedented snowfall.

“I was going to get things done that I had been putting off—clean closets, review old photographs, and make a pile of things to donate,” says Marie. “I didn’t do any of it, though, because I kept looking out my window. The busiest person I saw after every snowstorm was my neighbor Wes Byrd.”

Wes, a retired meteorologist, voluntarily mans a weather station at Brooksby. He collects rain and snow data and reports his findings to the meteorologists at Channel 7, WHDH, in Boston.

“When you see a weather report from Peabody on the Channel 7 news, it’s most likely from Wes here at Brooksby Village,” says Marie.

Posted to the North Atlantic

Wes got his start as a meteorologist when he joined the U.S. Air Force after the Second World War.

“I was given a battery of tests when I joined the service, and I got my assignment based on the results of those tests,” says Wes. “I was designated a weather observer at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts.”

Two years later, the Air Force sent Wes to its meteorology program at Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois, where he trained to be a weather forecaster.

“My first overseas assignment was in Goose Bay, Labrador,” says Wes. “For the rest of my Air Force career, all of my overseas assignments were in the North Atlantic. My second tour was in Iceland, and my third tour was in Newfoundland.”

Second career

Wes retired from the Air Force after 21 years of service and went to work for the Northeast Weather Service out of Lexington, Mass.

“I worked for a private company that provided forecasting services to anyone who needed to know the weather, such as interstate highways,” says Wes. 

After six years with the private firm, Wes received a call from the National Weather Service.

“They needed a meteorologist in the Department of Agriculture,” he says. “I went to work for them in climatology. We kept the agriculture world apprised of any weather that could potentially damage crops. We also monitored severe weather in other parts of the world to determine the impact it could have on the import and export of certain crops.”

First Erickson Living community

Wes and his wife Evelyn lived in Maryland while Wes worked for the National Weather Service in Washington, D.C.

“We were living in Maryland when John Erickson introduced his first retirement community in Catonsville [Md.],” says Wes. “We visited Charlestown, that first community, and thought it was a great concept. We felt the price was reasonable and liked the idea of having all the amenities under one roof.”

Wes and Evelyn joined the priority list, putting down a $1,000 deposit to reserve their place in line for the apartment home of their choice. A move to Charlestown never materialized, however, as family ties ultimately pulled them away from Maryland.

“Our son and daughter lived in New Hampshire and wanted us to be closer to them,” says Wes. “We moved to Cape Cod because it has milder weather than New Hampshire.”

The couple still had retirement communities in mind and checked into several options along the east coast.

“We always had Erickson in the back of our minds,” says Wes. “One day Evelyn was looking in the newspaper and saw that Erickson was building a new community in Peabody, Mass. We decided to check it out, and here we are.”

Snow as a hobby, not a job

The couple moved to Brooksby Village shortly after it opened in 2000. After a lifetime of collecting weather data, it didn’t take long for Wes to set up his own meteorological station at the Peabody community.

“At first I just set a rain gauge on the ground to collect rain and snow,” says Wes. “Somewhere along the way I began reporting my findings to Channel 7.”

Brooksby’s general services staff supported Wes’s efforts by installing a permanent pole to hold the gauge.

“My weather station is toward the back of the community, near the path that leads to Brooksby Farms,” says Wes.

After every rainfall or snowstorm, Wes makes his way to the weather station, often carrying a snow shovel to clear the path to the pole. He’s accustomed to chilly conditions, but Wes says it’s nice to view snow as a hobby instead of a way of life.

“That’s one of the many benefits of living at Brooksby,” he says. “I don’t have to worry about cleaning the snow off my car or shoveling the sidewalk and driveway. I check the weather because I want to, not because I have to.”

No snow removal chores

Like Wes, Brooksby residents don’t have to worry with snow removal chores when storms blow in.

Stan Yeakel, director of general services, says his department takes care of plowing and salting the community’s roads and sidewalks, and shoveling snow from the roofs once it becomes deeper than two to three feet.

“I enjoy being outside, but I’m glad to turn over the big chores to our general services team,” says Wes. “It’s a much easier way of life at Brooksby.”

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