Congratulations to Tom and CarterLake.org
Weather for your selection as WXForum.net Featured Weather Website for Winter, 2006!
Tom ('carterlake') is an active participant and sage advisor on multiple weather forums (including this one). His PHP scripts (freely shared) for NOAA Forecast, AJAX development, NexStorm scripts, and of course, the CarterLake WD templates are widely used and enjoyed by weather entusiasts worldwide.
Tom's website went live on August 10, 2004 (his birthday). He started off using a WS-2310, modified with all the wiring replaced and a custom radiation shield. Last year, he won an award at his work and was able to upgrade to a Davis Wireless Vantage Pro2 with Fan-Aspirated Radiation Shield (Model 6153). He also has a Boltek lightning detector (upgraded from the 1-Wire LD3-R2 Lightning Detector). a Coby CX788 for live streaming radio, and a Logitech Quickcam Pro 4000 for live streaming video. The camera is fan aspirated to prevent condensation on the window. The details on his setup is outlined on his site at http://www.carterlake.org/equipment.php
Tom also included informative pages explaining how the Boltek lightning detector works, how NEXRAD radar works and other useful information.
Tom's choice for weather software has always been Weather Display. He says: "I guess the reason is because it's both the most fully featured weather software available on the market and the best supported (Thanks Brian Hamilton!)." Tom uses Weather Display to collect and update the raw weather data, NexStorm to collect and upload the lightning data, Webcam32 to collect and upload the video data and GRLevel3 to collect and upload radar data. And of course, his entire site is pulled together with PHP. The main page has been "live" with AJAX since May 10, 2006.
Tom's foray into weather websites was motivated by his seeing the large and growing number of weather websites on the Internet. He wanted to do what they were doing ... have his own weather station with up-to-date information on the Internet. He says: "Of course, I didn't know then what I know now - that putting up a weather station definitely isn't as easy an plopping it down in your backyard. Surprisingly, the Internet side of things is actually the easiest part these days."
Tom's website design and PHP underpinning was inspired by Kevin Reed at TNET Weather (http://www.tnetweather.com
). "He was the one to show me how to put together a site using different bits of PHP." You can follow the thread of the development from March 26, 2005 at http://www.weather-watch.com/smf/index.php/topic,8470.0.html
Tom learned from Kevin a structure where the header, footer, sidebar can be 'boilerplate' and have the main content change on every page. That allowed for a consistent design and easy changability. Kevin also shared how the data from his weather station could be uploaded in just one file, then how PHP could parse the data and display it anywhere on any page in the website (the getwx and wx30.html approach, now used by many folks).
Then, on his own, Tom began to play with PHP to do other things like manipulating or redisplaying data. The main display of the weather conditions on Tom's home page was inspired by WeatherBug ( see http://www.aws.com/aws_2001/asp/obsForecast.asp?id=OMAHA&obs=full
) Thankfully for us, Tom's 'playing with PHP' resulted in a scripts like "NOAA Forecast", "NOAA Advisory", NexStorm TRACReport and Graphic, resizing Radar images and the list goes on at http://www.carterlake.org/weatherphp.php
All these he'd freely shared with the weather enthusiasts worldwide, and supported them on the various forums. (ed. note: It was Tom's forecast.php script that got me started in PHP, so THANKS Tom!)
Tom's plans for the future include "adding more toys, of course! I want to eventually upgrade the Davis to a "Plus" with UV and solar sensors. If somebody would come out with an automated snow measuring device, I'd be in line for one of those. And I'd like to somehow add both water temperature and depth of our lake, which unfortunately is about a quarter mile from my house."
Weather data is sent from Tom's station to CWOP and Weather Underground. Tom says "I think inspiring confidence in our data for the general public is very important, especially with so many other sources of weather information on the Internet. To that end, I created a page on my website to highlight the quality of CarterLake.org's data as checked by CWOP." In addition to the weather data, Tom sends his lightning data to StrikeStar, and streams the local NOAA Weather Radio to Weather Underground.
Tom's interest in the weather has been a lifelong thing. He considers his best night's sleep one in which it's pouring down rain outside. He finds the sound very soothing. He says "What probably started me as an adult was the big blizzard of 1995. I ended up trapped in my car for about 6 hours, waiting for road crews to remove two jack-knifed semi-trailers to be removed from the highway. Then, after creeping my way home, I ended up parking my new car sideways in a snowbank because I couldn't get into my driveway to park the car."
Tom finds it most rewarding when folks in town find the site for the first time. "Just the other day, our librarian stopped me (she lives two doors down) and said 'Wow, your site is amazing.' It's those kinds of comments which make it all worthwhile." (ed. note: We have to agree with your librarian, your site IS
Tom's advice to someone wanting to get started in weather watching as a hobby:
"It's actually very easy to do. Basic weather stations are relatively inexpensive. Setting up a website is quick, easy and dirt cheap! If that seems like too much, get a basic digital temperature sensor and NOAA weather radio. The good news with this hobby is that you can always start small and add bit by bit over time.
Regardless, every family in the United States should have a NOAA weather radio with EAS audio alarms. It can be a life saver."
Tom's advice to weather website builders is:
"Think as your visitors would think. I want to know the temperature, forecast, maybe some radar. I don't want to wait a long time for the page to view or wade through a lot of information to get what I want. I feel Weather.com is a perfect example of what not to do. The page is slow to load. It's full of ads and extraneous information. And other than temperature, you have to hunt for any kind of weather information - and this is a weather website!" Tom has a great page on his site called the Top 10 Weather Website Mistakes
that is great advice!
Tom is 36, married 14 years with a 12 year old son and a 4 year old daughter. His 'real job' is a Database Administrator for a major casino company (but we know his secret identity as a weather website guru). Tom's hobbies include collecting, building, working with gadgets and gizmos. He says "I've always wanted a robot lawnmower."
In closing, Tom says "I just wanted to add that there are dozens and dozens of folks who have inspired and helped me over the past 2 1/2 years. Weather station/website owners are some of the most helpful, friendly folks on the Internet. I'm looking forward to many more years of tinkering. Bring on the toys!"
Congratulations, Tom, for your selection as WXForum.net Featured Weather Website for Winter, 2006, and a hearty congratulations to the other nominees as well! All of your sites are an inspiration to us all.