Local man has feel for weather

Published 10:09 pm Saturday, August 9, 2008

Local weather most of the time relies on information gathered in cities miles away.

Most times those distances could be considered to be relatively close but information gathered in the same city is often preferred.

A weather station and a dedicated home computer located in the city limits of Picayune are hard at work providing residents with weather information that is as local as it can get.

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A recent graduate of Picayune High School, Matthew Sheffield dedicated two to three weeks of his summer vacation to installing a weather station at his home in Picayune and writing code for a related website. He is even sharing that weather information via his website, located at http://picayuneweather.com/.

Sheffield said it took him about a week just to write the code for the website.

“That was the most time consuming part,” Sheffield said. Setting up the hardware, inside and outside of his home, took about another week.

The site is updated every minute by his dedicated computer, which does nothing more than record and upload information gathered by his sophisticated weather equipment. Two pieces of hardware outside his home gather current weather statistics such as wind speed and direction, UV index, inches of rainfall, temperature and humidity. That information is sent to a display unit inside the home wirelessly, which is in turn connected to a computer that displays additional information and uploads the information to the web.

Sheffield said he hopes to have his site update more frequently in the future since there are other weather sites that update every five to ten seconds.

Picayuneweather.com also has descriptions of what the information on his site means, such as what constitutes dangerous UV index levels and how to protect themselves.

“We’re usually in the extreme range everyday here,” Sheffield said.

The extreme range, a level of 11 or more , means people should avoid sunlight exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to information on his site. Forecast and radar information on picayuneweather.com is provided by links from other sites, such as the national weather service, Sheffield said.

Sheffield is not new to computers and programming. He was a Pearl River County robotics team member for four years, and is about to start classes to earn his Computer Science degree at Mississippi College. He said he will continue to monitor the weather station and website remotely while at college.