Last updated: April 03. 2014 10:44AM - 638 Views
By - abulluck@civitasmedia.com

Open source image | Jefferson Post
Open source image | Jefferson Post
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Now that spring has arrived, January snow showers will soon give way to April and May rain and perhaps, hail showers.

To assist in providing the public with more accurate estimates of precipitation fall, the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) network is looking for volunteer weather and climate enthusiasts to help measure precipitation in Ashe County.

“We are in need of new observers across the entire state,” David Glenn, CoCoRaHS State Coordinator and meteorologist with the NWS in Newport/Morehead City, NC, said. “We would like to emphasize rural locations, areas of higher terrain and areas near the coast, especially on barrier islands.”

As of April 1, there were eight active, volunteer observers in Ashe County, according to Anita Silverman, Senior Forecaster with the National Weather Service, in Blacksburg,VA.

“NC has one of the most complex climates in the U.S.,” Dr. Ryan Boyles, state climatologist and director of the State Climate Office at N.C. State University, said. “Data gathered from CoCoRaHS volunteers is very important in better understanding local weather and climate patterns.”

Through CoCoRaHS, thousands of volunteers in all 50 states document the size, intensity, duration and patterns of rain, hail and snow events in their own backyards.

According to Glenn, “An additional benefit of the program to the NWS is the ability to receive timely reports of significant weather events from CoCoRaHS observers that can assist forecasters in issuing and verifying warnings for severe thunderstorms.”

NC was the twenty-first state to establish a CoCoRaHS program in 2007, and its proven to be quite popular with weather buffs throughout the state.

“NC just won the 2014 CoCoRaHS Cup for signing up more volunteers than any other state,” Silverman said.

Ashe County is a part of the CoCoRaHS Northwest Region in NC that includes Alleghany, Caswell, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes ansd Yadkin counties.

The idea for CoCoRaHS stemmed from the devastating flash floods that hit Fort Collins, Colo., in July 1997. That day, over a foot of rain fell over parts of the city, while other parts received only modest amounts of rain. The flood surprised many and caused over $200 million worth of damage.

CoCoRaHS was started in 1998 to assist the NWS in doing a better job of mapping and reporting intense storms.

To become a CoCoRaHS obsever, go to the CoCoRaHS website at www.cocorahs.org and register by clicking on the “Join CocCoRaHS” icon on the upper right side of the website. After registering, take the online training, order the four inch rain gauge ($28, plus shipping) and begin reporting.

The reporting process takes an average of ten minutes per day and observations are immediately available on maps and reports for public consumption.

Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.

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