Weatherman Rock Star

| March 17, 2007 @ 6:55 pm | 1 Reply

If you think James Spann or J.B. Elliott are rock stars in the weather profession, you should have seen Mr. Edgar C. Horton. Mr. Horton was a veritable celebrity in Birmingham in 1932. He was the Official in Charge at the Weather Bureau office here in Birmingham. The office was started in 1903, and Mr. Horton became Chief of the office in 1911.

A South Carolina native, Mr. Horton attended The Citadel. Friends with some employees of the U.S. Weather Bureau, Horton decided to join their ranks in 1904. He spent a year in Jacksonville, Florida before being shipped to Santiago, Cuba as part of the hurricane service. In a short while, Horton was called back to the United States where he bounced between offices. He was assigned to the office in Montgomery in 1906. Then in 1911, Horton was placed in charge of the Birmingham weather office.

It had been a strange winter in 1931-32. Extremely warm weather covered much of the nation in November, December and January. Many record highs were set across the country, including the Magic City. Apples bloomed in January. But things turned colder in February. A warm spell set in during early March. This was followed by bitter cold at mid-month. But by Palm Sunday, March 20th, the weather turned splendid. The high was 81F that day and kids played in the hose. People took to the golf course and thousands crowded the highways to celebrate the fine conditions.

On Monday, March 21, 1932, Horton’s junior observer, Miss Mary Hamilton Horton, his daughter, went to the chicken coop-like instrument shelter at the house in Fountain Heights that served as the Birmingham weather office. She checked the temperature and dew point. The morning low was a balmy 59F, a full 15 degrees above normal for the date. She noted the wind direction and speed. The barometer was read. Mr. Horton retired to his map table with sheaves of teletype reports. Meticulously, he recorded the observations from across the country, creating a map of the country’s weather. The pattern that he saw pointed to a round of thunderstorms, followed by sharply colder temperatures.

The Birmingham News said that weatherman Horton predicted “showers and colder.” His forecast called for thundershowers and colder on Monday night with lows dropping to near 50. It went on to say that Tuesday would be cloudy and colder. I wonder if Weatherman Horton knew that the deadliest tornado outbreak in the history of Alabama was just hours away. More all weekend and next week.

If you have any stories or information about Mr. Edgar Horton, the Weather Bureau office in Fountain Heights or the 1932 tornado outbreak, please contact me at billmurray@att.net. Or call me at 602-7249. I also need to get in touch with Carrie…who posted a response on March 5th…please email or call me…

Thanks!

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About the Author ()

Bill Murray is the President of The Weather Factory. He is the site's official weather historian and a weekend forecaster. He also anchors the site's severe weather coverage. Bill Murray is the proud holder of National Weather Association Digital Seal #0001 @wxhistorian

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