In the world of weather observers, Richard Hendrickson was a legend. Every day, for more than 80 years, Mr. Hendrickson took to his backyard Bridgehampton weather station to document the temperature and winds, rainfall and snow totals.
Reporters on deadline looking for weather data after a big storm would always smile when they saw the National Weather Service’s stalwart Bridgehampton data point online, knowing the man behind that data could be counted on for any occasion.
Mr. Hendrickson died Saturday at the Westhampton Care Center at the age of 103.
Richard Hendrickson grew up on his family’s farm in Bridgehampton, where he rode out the Hurricane of 1938. At the age of 27 at the time of the storm, he’d already been a volunteer with the National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observer Program for nearly a decade.
I sat with Mr. Hendrickson for several hours at his home just before the 70th anniversary of the storm, back in 2008, where he recounted, as he often did, how 300 of his chickens had simply blown away, never to be seen again, about how all the leaves and apples had been blown from the trees, about the toppling of the steeple of Sag Harbor’s Old Whalers Church and the devastation farther east in Montauk and Napeague.
Mr. Hendrickson wrote a book about the Hurricane of ’38, “Winds of the Fish’s Tail,” published in 1996.
From the time I began working as a reporter in Sag Harbor nearly two decades ago, Richard Hendrickson was always available to talk about the weather. He kept track of the changing seasons, the droughts and rainy spells, and regularly graced our pages with columns about his observations.
He would always welcome members of the press to come see his weather station, essentially a little white box on legs in his backyard, where two thermometers measured the high and low temperatures of the day, a rain gauge measured snow and rainfall, and a weather vane and a wind speed indicator told the wind’s tale. He would always patiently explain how he took his measurements and the highlights of his years of observation.
Mr. Hendrickson was honored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2014 for his 84 years of service to the Cooperative Observer Program, the longest length of service ever recorded in the country.
NOAA’s 80-year service award is now named after him.
The program, which began in the 1890s, now has more than 8,700 observers throughout the country.
At the time he received the award, according to NOAA, Mr. Hendrickson had “filed twice daily reports, tallying more than 150,000 individual weather observations – playing a critical role in building our nation’s climate history.”
Visitation will be held Friday, Jan. 22 at Brockett Funeral Home in Southampton from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. and a funeral will be held at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church on Jan. 23 at 11 a.m., followed by burial at Bridgehampton’s Edgewood Cemetery.