When it comes to small talk, few subjects are broached more frequently than the weather.
But if you ever come to chat with Roger Pannett, be careful what you say on the subject because no one in Chilliwack knows more than he does about record-high temperatures, relative humidity and precipitation.
Pannett has a full-time job as the man in B.C. who inspects 540 dairy cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo operations. In addition, he also inspects and licenses more than 120 bulk tank milk graders and 91 milk tankers.
His hobby, however, is the weather and his recordings are the measurements of record for Environment Canada in the Chilliwack area.
"I check dairy farms all over the province so when I'm away my daughter records measurements," Pannett told the Times during a recent backyard chat.
"We haven't missed a day since 1988."
Pannett was to be honoured by Chilliwack MLA John Les on Monday evening along with three other local individuals with the Diamond Jubilee Medal. The award humbles Pannett, who does not like the public spotlight; he wants to hide from the broadcast media when a major weather event take place.
He was honoured both for his weather observation but also his duties as the provincial dairy technologist.
The sun was shining and the temperature was crisp during an interview next to Pannett's weather station on Nov. 27.
A comment on this prompted him to point out that the coldest Nov. 27 ever in Chilliwack-local weather data goes back to 1876- was in 1985, when the mercury dropped to 19 below.
"Plus there was wind blowing," Pannett adds, as if it happened last week. "That was the coldest November ever."
Since 1988, Pannett has been Environment Canada's volunteer weather observer for the Chilliwack area. Since then, he has dutifully recorded the weather using his modest-looking Stevenson screen, a unit about the size of a small oven that holds a maximum and minimum thermometer and a thermo-humidity recorder. He also has a simple rain gauge and a snow board to record precipitation.
Pannett is the only person recording Chilliwack's weather in such an official capacity. If you go to Environment Canada's weather office web page and click on Chilliwack to see current conditions, that is not really Chilliwack. It's Agassiz on the other side of the Fraser River, where the weather can often be quite different than in Chilliwack.
Environment Canada relies on individuals like Pannett across the country to record data where there are no official stations.
"They still like to have volunteers because it's hands on, it's their eyes on the ground," he said, adding, "Probably, in the end, this job will be obsolete."
The mild-mannered Pan-nett said he intends to retire soon-from the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, that is. He has no intention of stopping his weather recording. He currently lives in Chilliwack on the eastern edge of the residential area but he and his wife are having a home built in Garrison Crossing to retire to. He had to ask Canada Lands if it was OK to set up his weather station in his backyard.
"They said it's fine," he said, meaning Pannett will continue to talk about the weather- with incredible accuracy-for years to come.