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Downpour brings in flood of followers for amateur weatherman

Lee Schofield installed his first weather station five years ago in the Highlands.

Reporting by Iain Ramage

The downpour that brought chaos to parts of the Highlands midweek also brought a flood of new followers for a local amateur weatherman.

Lee Schofield won plaudits for a particularly accurate forecast - and was ready with his phone camera shortly before the peak of the drama.

His full-time job is a motor trade data analyst. But it is sky-watching that drives him.

His passion was initially fuelled by an infamous storm.

The independent forecaster said: "Back in 1987, we had the great storm - 'The Hurricane' as it was dubbed back then, 'the Michael Fish one'.

"That was what got me interested in weather. I was 13 at the time and my father was working down in London, I was living in Lancashire.

"We had seen the news. The big storm had hit and we couldn't get hold of him because there were no mobile phones then.

"I was by watching the forecasts and the information unfolding regarding this big storm which really triggered an interest and from then on the interest grew, really."

Mr Schofield installed his first weather station after moving to Carrbridge five years ago - and things have snowballed.

"I wanted a weather station at home anyway just for my interest and it was through that really," he said.

"I set the weather web page up and started putting the forecasts on.

"About 100 people followed the page at that time, mainly people from the local area. That got bigger and bigger and bigger.

"People tell friends and suddenly it's 102,000 people following it now, five years later. It's gone from one weather station in Carrbridge to almost 40 of my own weather stations."

'It's a real mixture of people - local farmers who want to know can they do the silage, gardeners asking 'can I plant my bedding plants yet?'
Lee Schofield

Twenty other local forecasters have joined the network which now has a global and local audience.

Mr Schofield said: "It's a real mixture of people - local farmers who want to know can they do the silage, gardeners asking 'can I plant my bedding plants yet?'

"People asking: 'can I have a barbecue next week? Can I hang my washing out this morning?'

"It's just a real mixture of people."

As he proved on Wednesday, a close eye on the local climate helps.

He said: "I woke up in the morning and checked the information from the weather stations and spied that Slochd had recorded 60 millimetres of rain overnight and straight away figured that's going to be an event.

"I drove up to Tomatin, filmed the Findhorn river rising quickly and came back to Carrbridge.

"The river rose so quickly in two hours that I was lucky to capture it happening on video."

More than 1000 newcomers this week are now following his online forecasts.

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