Walker: Man shares passion for weather on Web

Wednesday, January 09, 2008 By Paul R. Kopenkoskey - The Grand Rapids Press

WALKER -- Tim Hanko's childhood fascination with the weather blossomed into a lifelong passion that he shares with others on the Web.

Hanko, 43, said his appetite for storm clouds and thunderclaps was whet during the summer vacations his family took to the West and East coasts when he was growing up. It was common for his dad to drag him out of bed in the middle of the night to witness thunderstorms and torrential rain.

"My dad was a minister, and he would fill in for ministers on vacation and make a family vacation out of it," said Hanko, a security consultant.

"My dad left his kids with an appreciation for creation itself, and the weather is just another part of that."

He said his Web site, thanko.info, is just an expression of the appreciation his father instilled in him.

An array of sensors on his roof track wind direction, changes in atmospheric pressure and humidity, and other weather patterns. He packages that real-time information on his Web site, which averages 60 hits daily.

Site visitors also can track weather patterns back to April 2006, when the Web site went online.

Hanko said his personal favorite is the lightning data.

"It catches lightning strikes and provides rough estimates of distance and direction," he said. "So it helps track storms, the intensity of storms and the type of lightning: positively or negatively charged or cloud to ground."

Site users can also sign up to receive warnings from the National Weather Service and read Hanko's blog on weather trends.

But he said people shouldn't depend on his information to protect life or property.

"This is a hobby I enjoy," he said. "I like stormy weather. It's interesting to watch the lightning, just tracking the storm as it moves across the area."