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Palmers receive 2023 Thomas Jefferson Award

Recognizing 47 years of dedication, NOAA’s National Weather Service is proud to honor Orval and Gerta Palmer, Alton, Utah, as recipients of the agency’s 2023 Thomas Jefferson Award, the highest Cooperative Observer honor in the country. Having earned the second highest honor in 2015, the John Campanius Holm Award, the Palmers have continued to provide timely, accurate and dependable weather observations to the National Weather Service for nearly a half century.



Orval and Gerta Palmer of Alton, Utah proudly display their 2023 Thomas Jefferson and Dick Hagemeyer Awards. The awards were presented by NWS WR Director Dr. Grant Cooper (second from right) Salt Lake City MIC Darren Van Cleave (L) and OPL Lisa Verzella (R). The Palmer team has been measuring and reporting weather every single day for the past 47 years. Photo by Jay Cummings.


Orval and Gerta became the official Alton Cooperative Weather Observers in 1977 and are the longest-tenured observers since the station was established in 1915. The Palmer team sends daily observations to the office via WxCoder, and call or text Spotter reports of extreme weather. These reports, including flooding, wind damage and record temperatures and precipitation, have greatly facilitated the WFO in producing weather advisories for the numerous travelers and recreationalists that pass along nearby US- 89, through this radar-blocked southern Utah region, enroute to the great Utah National Parks and beyond.


Orval is proud to be a cowboy and has ranched in southern Utah nearly his entire life. In the mid to late 1970s, he was interviewed and photographed for a National Geographic book titled Trails West. As integral members of a town largely dependent on agriculture and ranching, the Palmer’s daily observations of temperature, precipitation and the rare snow event have made a positive impact on the whole community and greatly assist the NWS in tracking the climate of Utah.



The civic record of the Palmers is extraordinary, serving as Alton postmasters for over four decades. Gerta also currently serves on the Town Board; Orval was Alton Mayor and Town Clerk for many years before retiring from ranching and public service.


As noted by the Kane County Commissioners, “The Palmers have been a pillar of the Alton community and our county for over a half century. They have served for decades in numerous community leadership positions and are an institution in our area.”


The Palmers were also awarded a 45- year Dick Hagemeyer Award.

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