MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Something we can all relate to in the Land of 10,000 Lakes is the weather. Minnesotans love to talk about it. And not a day goes by that we aren’t checking the forecast to see if school will be canceled, or if it’s OK to wear shorts instead of jeans.
So, for 125 years, one family has been helping to make sure our weather experts get that forecast right.
The Opjorden Family in Chippewa County has never missed a day of recording temperatures, along with precipitation totals for the National Weather Service.
In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen takes us to Milan, where rain or snow a family’s legacy is sure to shine on.
We are a state of sudden extremes. You can go from 70 and sunny one day to 30 and snow the next. Despite all the technology and maps weather experts go by, new methods are still helped by old school ways.
“The temperature is taken in the shade and that’s what the house is for,” Luther Opjorden said.
Luther and his family have been running a weather station for so long, his friends rarely call him by his real name. He’s known as the “weather man.”
Before Luther, there was his dad Torfinn, a dairy farmer who ran a tiny, inconspicuous station near Milan for 57 years. And before Torfinn, Luther’s grandfather O.K. Opjorden got the whole thing started way back in 1893.
Not only have the Opjordens never missed a day of recording the temperature, they’ve kept actual weather readings dating back to O.K.’s first-ever weather report.
“This is August of 1893,” Luther said while holding a copy of the report. “I have a copy of every weather report for the past 125 years on my computer.”
But it’s not a computer that’s telling them the daily highs and lows. So, when you see the National Weather Service temperature, this is where it’s coming from.
Inside the weather station are two thermometers. One contains mercury. The other, alcohol. Every night at 6 o’clock, Luther makes the day’s temperature official.
But why 6 p.m.?
“That just corresponded with chores,” Luther said.
The rain gauge is also ancient, but accurate. It’s stood the test of time, the weather, “And a bb gun,” said Luther with a laugh.
The Opjorden’s are also responsible for snow totals and for informing everyone when the frost is out.
“The deepest I’ve seen the frost this past year was 23 inches here at one point,” Luther said.
Indoors and away from the elements is the Wall of Fame.
“The Stoll Award. The Thomas Jefferson. And the John Holm Award,” said Luther while reading off various awards.
They’ve been recognized in Washington and have earned the respect of weather enthusiasts across the country. And when you’ve been doing it for this long, you begin to pick up on patterns.
“The trend is it’s getting warmer. At this station it’s a degree and a half or two degrees warmer over the past 40 to 50 years,” said Luther.
Because they don’t make the kind of thermometers they used anymore, the weather service has told Luther that when they break he’ll have to go digital. But that’s a problem best left for the next generation of the Opjorden family.
“Who would have ever thought it would be going on for 125 years?
“Now, just try to keep it on as long as we can go. Continue on the legacy,” said Luther.
For fun, each year Luther runs a number of long-distance races across the country. So when he’s out of town, his neighbor Mike Hanson will fill in on the weather station.
When Luther retires from this, he’s hoping one of his sons takes over and keeps the family legacy going. Luther said between his grandfather and his dad, his aunt also ran the weather station for a couple of years.