KWWL weather observer keeps community informed

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Rod McLane of Guttenberg, KWWL weather observer, uses a home ambient weather station to keeps his community informed of current and upcoming weather conditions. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Rod McLane, KWWL weather observer and longtime resident of Guttenberg, has always had a soft spot in his generous heart for his community. He was born in 1964 and is a graduate of St. Mary Immaculate Conception and Clayton Ridge School in Guttenberg. He has been employed in the area for most of his life, working at Ever's Jack and Jill, the Guttenberg Municipal Swimming Pool, Ertl's in Dyersville and at the Stadium Bar and Grill, which he eventually owned and operated for 11½ years. 

"The Stadium went up in 1986," McLane recalled, "Steve and Vicki McLane built it and I started off as dishwasher. I worked my way up the ladder. I could not have done any of it without the help of Steve and Vicki, Judy Brandel, and Grandma Francis. They taught me the ropes!" 

Steve and Vicki McLane sold the Stadium Bar and Grill to local businessmen Steve Hansel and Elmo Behrend, who would eventually sell it to McLane. "I loved owning a restaurant," McLane exclaimed. "I was a hands-on boss. I cooked, washed dishes, worked behind the bar, waited tables and cleaned – whatever needed to be done." 

The successful bar and grill was open seven days a week from 7 a.m. - closing. The workload and demanding schedule would eventually start to affect the hardworking restaurateur. "Back in the day we had a pretty popular bar business," commented McLane. "We had a lot of bands on the weekend, and the smoke, long hours and cleanup at the end of the night started to take its toll on my health. I always liked to be back at the restaurant for the breakfast crowd and greet the locals and tourists, which shortened my night's sleep. If health reasons had not gotten in the way I would still be there. I loved it!" 

McLane's cooking skills and vibrant personality were well known throughout the area. He was famous for "Rod's Reuben Sandwich" served with a side order of crispy French fries. "It was always a balance – you had to work hard and save money when you were busy to get through the long winter," said the former business owner. "It is a great community to be in. I miss the people." 

From cook to weather-spotter

McLane always had an interest in the weather. He remembers sitting on his grandparents' front porch watching storms roll in. The inquisitive young man would eventually become a certified weather observer for KWWL, one of northeast Iowa's news channels. "I had an interest in the weather and the railroad as a kid," he shared. "I was always fascinated with clouds, storms and weather patterns. I took a weather spotter class and became certified. I used to chase storms, but I don't anymore. It's not safe." 

McLane works with the National Weather Service out of  LaCrosse, Wis. In 2015 he started his own weather page, The Guttenberg Iowa Weather Page on Facebook.  He currently has 5,000 followers, many of them tourists or people who own second homes, mobile homes or boats docked in one of Guttenberg's two marinas. 

"Weather is my hobby. It was always in my blood. I guess the Lord put it in my heart," noted McLane. "I pull information from the National Weather Service platform, Mark Schnackenburg from KWWL and Nick Stewart from KGAN, and then put it all together. I have to get final approval from the National Weather Service in LaCrosse before I can post it." 

McLane still serves his community, but not from a plate. He stays in contact with the Guttenberg Fire Department when they are out storm spotting, and Matt Moser, Clayton Ridge football coach, for game day forecasts. Many teachers and parents depend on his weather report for driving conditions, school closings and early dismissals. Mississippi River boaters, semi-drivers and family and friends all depend on his accurate predictions.  "I have the equipment and knowledge – and my weather station has radar on it. Storms are thrilling, but we don't want the damage. We want to keep our community safe. A lot of people call me the weather guy," he said with a smile.

McLane uses a home ambient weather station that updates every minute to keep track of fluctuating temperatures, dew points, wind speeds, rainfall amounts, humidity, UV index and solar radiation. "The equipment is costly and weather observers have to pay for it themselves," commented McLane. "I could install a web cam, and there are various other tools but they are pretty expensive."

"The LaCrosse weather station has a rain gauge and other equipment to keep track of Guttenberg's weather at Lock and Dam 10, but we all know rain totals and wind speeds up on Acre Street and out in the country can be quite different because of the bluffs," he said.  

McLane's equipment can also predict upcoming weather patterns. "I can utilize my equipment to look ahead and predict the upcoming season. This fall a La Niña weather pattern will usher in drier weather for the harvest. This winter will be colder and snowier. A half-inch of liquid creates about five inches of snow. It all works together." 

Predicting the weather can be difficult. "None of us are perfect. If I am wrong people will let me know about it," he said with a hearty laugh. 

Covid-19 update

McLane generously stepped forward during our nation's worldwide pandemic and kept track of Covid-19 cases in Clayton County. "When the stock market started to fall, things began to close down and mask mandates and social distancing were put into place, I started to look at information on the Internet, said McLane.

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