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CLASSIC JAZZ Willie Thomas, Oliver Groenewald to perform Page 9

OSCAR PARTY AT THE CENTER Watch the Academy Awards on the big screen Page 10


NEWS | The ‘Dream Act’ bill passes [2] COMMUNITY | Winter book sale coming soon [3] COUNTY | San Juan County stormwater assessment in the works [6]

Serving Orcas, Lopez and San Juan County

WEDNESDAY, February 26, 2014  VOL. 47, NO. 9  75¢

Willis sets the record with weather-keeping by CALI BAGBY Staff reporter

Orcas Island has changed a lot since 1889 with new residents, paved streets and much bigger ferries coming into the landing. On one plot of land out in Olga there is a singular relic of the past that stands steadfast and useful as the seasons change. As people pass on and babies are born, it remains constant – it is a rain gauge. With this simple instrument one Orcas family has kept track of precipitation on their property for 125 years making them the only family in the United States that has a continuous, unbroken record of weather from the exact same spot for more than a century. While other locations’ rain gauges were disturbed by concrete or other aspects of modernization, the Willis family’s’ gauge has never moved one inch. “It’s important because it allows us to look back on records and see if the climate has changed,” said Marilyn Myers who has been working with John Willis over the past ten years on weather-related projects. “There has only been an average of 1 degree of temperature change in the last 125 years.” At the recent   Garden Club  meeting on Feb. 19, the Willis family was honored for

Above: John Willis

Contributed photo

John Willis’ father Culver Willis and his grandmother Louise Culver Willis at the exact same rain gauge that still reads precipitation levels today. their tireless service. The county council offered Willis a proclamation of appreciation of service to the San Juans and beyond. “The Willis family has been serving our community, state and nation for over 125 years providing

daily accurate weather readings,” Councilman Rick Hughes told the Sounder. “This work is important for a better understanding of our environment.  In addition, no family has taken on this responsibility longer than the Willis family

Cali Bagby/Staff Photo

in the entire country.” At the meeting Marilyn read a letter from Representative Kristine Lytton to the Willis family praising their work that “has been critical to understanding our state’s history.” Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, also sent a letter commending the scientific feat. Mass is also known for his popular weather blog. “Today when concerns about global change have increased, there is nothing more important than reliable long-term climate

Legal challenge over charter changes by SCOTT RASMUSSEN Journal editor

Do San Juan County voters and county council candidates receive unequal treatment in countywide elections because the population of the three county legislative districts, also known as “residency” districts, are decidedly unequal in size? A lawsuit filed on the heels of the November 2012 election, in which changes to the county home-rule charter reduced the size of the council from six to three elected officials, contends that voters and council candidates are treated unequally because the population size of each of the three districts are “grossly”

unequal.. And that lawsuit and its list of allegations have yet to be resolved. San Juan County was back in court this week to defend its unequal-sized residency districts and handling of the three Charter Review Commission-backed ballot propositions that, among other items, reshaped the county council and the manner by which council candidates are elected. The lawsuit also contends that each of the three proposed charter amendments put before the voters back in 2012 ran afoul of the state so-called “subject and title rule” because all three addressed more than a single topic. Legal arguments in the case of Carlson, et. al

versus San Juan County began Monday before three justices at the state court of appeals in Seattle. Should her clients prevail, Friday Harbor Attorney Stephanie O’Day is unsure about what remedy the court might choose to impose. The case could be sent back to San Juan County Superior Court, where the lawsuit was rejected by Judge John M. Meyer of Skagit County about a year ago. “My hope would be that the court would admonish the county on the subject and title clause,” said O’Day, who acknowledges that it


records,” he wrote. “Of particular importance are climate records in rural areas without significant development because local heating effects from urbanization and land-use change are avoided.” Willis started taking on the weather recording responsibility by himself in 1985, which means he has been recording for the last 29 years at the same kiosk that his ancestors used in 1889. On the few days he was off-island his four sisters would take on the duty. John is the second eldest child out of five siblings. He also kept track of the wind in a unique fashion by looking at how high the waves were rising and if any water was coming off the crests of the waves. “He is so aware of what the water looks like he can gauge the wind,” said Marilyn. “He is so attuned to everything.” Marilyn said although John turned 75 in October he has no intention of quitting, but hopes in the future someone from the family will take on the responsibility.


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Islands' Sounder, February 26, 2014