GREENFIELD — When a storm was on the horizon, Duane Van Kley was the kind of guy who couldn’t help but get excited.
He’d set up shop in what he and wife Jan called “the situation room,” his own personal radar station at his house, to watch every moment of severe weather as it developed.
“I did not need a weather radio,” his wife said. “I never needed one when he was around.”
Van Kley was so enthusiastic about his hobby that in 2010 he donated a $20,000 WeatherBug station to Greenfield Intermediate School, where his wife works as a sixth-grade science teacher.
Last week, that weather station was dedicated in Van Kley’s memory. Van Kley died unexpectedly in September 2011 from a massive heart attack.
Intermediate school principal Jim Bever said he’d hoped to have a dedication service on the one-year anniversary of Van Kley’s passing, but he waited until all the details – including a plaque bearing Van Kley’s name and photograph – were ready.
“Obviously, Duane gave a large investment to our community, and it simply made sense to honor he and Jan’s gift … and to honor his enthusiasm,” Bever said.
WeatherBug is a national weather-monitoring network that includes data such as current temperature, high and low temperatures for the day, rainfall and wind speed. Typically, that information is gathered from stations in Indianapolis, making it less applicable to Greenfield residents, Bever said. Having a system centered in Hancock County assures area residents have the most relevant information, he said.
Van Kley, who had a knack for electronics, also installed a high-definition camera that provides a second-story look at the Greenfield horizon in real time.
The weather station’s data can be accessed by anyone who visits weatherbug.com and puts in Greenfield’s zip code. There is also a mobile application that can be downloaded to cellphones.
Without Van Kley’s generosity, the school would not have been able to afford the system, Bever said.
“Not only is this thing a great education resource, it’s a great community resource,” Bever said. “Weather data that is gathered at Greenfield Intermediate School is disseminated across the country.”
Van Kley’s wife, Jan, who still works at the intermediate school, said the system has practical applications in the classroom.
She uses the station data to check on the temperature outside and also reference the system’s lightning detector.
“I, personally, use this a lot because it helps me decide are we going out for recess,” she said.
The lightning detector also signals an alarm in the school.
“You can’t miss it when it goes off,” Bever said.
Bever said having the system protects both students and staff when severe weather is headed their way.
“Otherwise, we used to post observers on the second floor, and I frequently was moving outside,” he said. “We sometimes put people out in dangerous circumstances. We don’t have to do that anymore.”