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2012-06-28

Volunteers needed to report rainfall, hail, snow

By Carolyn B. Edwards Staff Writer

After a disastrous flash flood that struck Fort Collins, Colorado, in July of 1997, people began to look for better ways to track major storms.

As a result, in 1998, CoCoRaHS (The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network) was born.

CoCoRaHS is a non-profit, community based, high-density network of volunteers who take daily measurements of rain, hail and snow in their backyards. CoCoRaHS is currently looking for more volunteers in Bandera County to add to their data collection rates.

The data is used by the National Weather Service to improve their forecasts and to document rainfall and flooding.

Rainfall is so vital to the Hill County. It not only replenishes the lakes and aquifers, but we depend upon it for recreation, agriculture, and landscaping.

CoCoRaHS is a program that involves all 50 states and is now expanding into Canada. It encourages the general public to report rainfall, hail, and snow. Anyone can be a volunteer for this project. The only thing needed is a good accurate rain gauge and an enthusiasm for weather.

There is no cost to join. Simply go to the CoCoRaHS website and follow the instructions on how to become a member.

Official rain gauges, which cost around $20, can be purchased through the website.

Observers are encouraged to log onto the website daily and submit their report, even if rain did not occur.

Training is provided to teach new observers how to install their instruments, properly measure precipitation and send in reports.

In addition to the training, CoCoRaHS sends periodic emails and newsletters to keep participants posted on how their data is used. Classroom resources for teachers are also being developed.

In addition to rainfall, hail reports are also very important to the Austin/San Antonio National Weather Service.

Not only can the submitted reports help save lives, they will also help research scientists, hydrologists, emergency managers, engineers, and more.

The CoCoRaHS data is immediately available to the public via the website.

Bandera County currently has three CoCoRaHS volunteers, all on the eastern end of the county. There is a definite need for volunteers in the west and north portions of the county where heavy rainfall can quickly lead to flash floods downstream.

For more information regarding CoCoRaHS, visit the website at www.cocorahs.org. For additional information, contact regional coordinator Mark Lenz at 830-606-3600.

"We live in Flash Flood Alley, and knowing how much rain fell across the area is key to putting out accurate watches and warnings. Please consider joining this rainfall network and share your rain totals with the rest of the city, county, and country," said Lenz.

Pictured: CoCoRaHS volunteers will need to install an accurate rain gauge like this one in order to measure and report precipitation in their backyards.