The City of Vassar Honored for 100 Years of Observations for the National Weather Service

On Monday evening, February 6, 2012 the city of Vassar was presented with the distinguished 100 Year Honored Institution Award for 100 years of observations for the National Weather Service (NWS).  

Pictured from left to right:  Deb Elliott, Observation Program Leader NWS Detroit/Ponitac; Mayor Henry Hornung; Carl Miller WasteWater Treatment Plant; Richard Wagenmaker Meteorologist-in-Charge NWS Detroit

Pictured from left to right:  Deb Elliott, Observation Program Leader NWS Detroit/Ponitac; Mayor Henry Hornung; Carl Miller WasteWater Treatment Plant Superintendent; Richard Wagenmaker Meteorologist-in-Charge NWS Detroit

In February 1910, the National Weather Service, then called the Weather Bureau, installed a chain-weight river gage on the state highway bridge crossing the Cass River in Vassar.  On February 15th of that year,  the City of Vassar was recruited to provide readings of that gage. This was the beginning of Vassar’s long established role as part of the Cooperative Weather Observer Network . The reading of the river gage coincided with the Weather Bureau’s nationwide River and Flood Divisions assessment of available water for irrigation and also its new generalized weekly forecasts for agricultural planning.   Since Vassar’s inception into the network, other instruments were added and duties expanded to include temperature and precipitation reports. With the exception of the temporary removal of the river gage in 1938 in order to rebuild the bridge, service from the City of Vassar has been consistent and has provided support to the Weather Service for over 100 years! 

Looking through the flood history of the city,  it seems the observers at Vassar have certainly earned their keep, with numerous occurrences of the Cass River in Vassar overflowing its banks. The great flood of 1986 certainly took its toll on this area. During 1986 the flood, waters rose over 10 feet above flood stage and made the history books as the biggest flood to ever hit the area. That honor (if you can call it that) was previous held by the flood of 1948, when the river crested at 20.8 feet (about 7 feet above flood stage). Though a lesser flood with a crest of just under 3 feet, the 1938 flood was sufficient enough to take out the M-15 bridge. 


The NWS Cooperative Observer Program (COOP) is truly the Nation's weather and climate observing network of, by and for the people. More than 11,000 volunteers take observations on farms, in urban and suburban areas, National Parks, seashores, and mountaintops. The data are truly representative of where people live, work and play.

The COOP was formally created in 1890 under the Organic Act. Its mission is two-fold:

  • To provide observational meteorological data, usually consisting of daily maximum and minimum temperatures, snowfall, and 24-hour precipitation totals, required to define the climate of the United States and to help measure long-term climate changes
  • To provide observational meteorological data in near real-time to support forecast, warning and other public service programs of the NWS.

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