In an age of technology, when more and more duties normally performed by people are handed over to a computer, Estevan is set to see a long standing but obscure piece of the community fade into the sunset.
By the end of August, it will be lights out for the manned weather observation station located upstairs of the lobby at the Estevan Airport, which for years has provided necessary reports for pilots and passed information on for distribution to the public.
"We were informed just into June that NavCanada decided they were going to fully automate the station. Then we were told that, by the end of August, that would be our last day to be here," shared Mike Porter, who's been a weather observer at the place for over 10 years, "Since then, it's just been a matter of just waiting until everything is said and done, I guess."
He noted that there have been some exciting, and special, moments during his time on the job.
"There's lots of different planes that I get to see coming in...and you get to meet some interesting people, not just from Canada but coming up from the States and everywhere else. Even during the floods, the premier was here and I got to meet him, and with the airshows, you get to meet all the different pilots while you're here."
Porter added that he's seen the airport expand and grow over his tenure, seen hangars added and business pick up.
"Even working with a lot of the people here, it's been quite an experience. I enjoy talking with the pilots, because they have relied on our weather, but it's also nice to talk to them and see what's going on around different areas. We've had the water bombers set up a base here, crop sprayers work out of here now, and there's lots of other stuff that's been going on over the years."
The job for a weatherman has certainly evolved over the years as well. The amount of paperwork has diminished as everything can now be entered into computers. While early on, the observers would have their hands full collecting and disseminating information for both pilots and the public through NavCanada and Environment Canada, respectively, that has since changed. Environment Canada has their own equipment on site, mostly automatic, which requires the observer to focus on simply compiling aviation-specific reports, though some information is shared across the board.
"A lot of the challenges that we had a lot of the time, especially during the summer, was dealing with thunderstorms. You know, you're told that if you hear the thunder, you stay inside. Unfortunately for us, it was a little bit of a different story. We were expected to go outside and do the observations. The chances of being hit by lightning were pretty slim, but you'd sometimes get drenched. Even in the wintertime, there was times where you had to go out in the middle of the storm and check your snow depth and everything else," said Porter, adding that the storm patterns and frequency have evolved as well.
Now that he knows he'll be out of a job within a month's time, he's not too sure yet where the trail will take him.
"I'm not too sure if I'll be staying in Estevan or moving on to someplace different, it just depends on where I can find some work that I can do. It'll be a bit of a difference, as I've been here, doing this for the past ten years, trying to shift gears again. Hopefully I can find something in the airport industry, it's hard to say, we'll see what happens."
When the weather station does become fully automated, data formerly observed by Porter and his colleagues, such as wind, temperature and dewpoint, ceiling and cloud cover and precipitation, will now be compiled and distributed in near real time by sensitive electronic equipment, which is currently in the final stages of installation.