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Citizen weather program seeks volunteers

Weather on Ocracoke is always a factor and the CoCoRaHS is seeking volunteers to help monitor it. Photo: C. Leinbach

NEWPORT–The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow network is seeking volunteer weather observers across coastal North Carolina and especially rural areas and the coast.

CoCoRaHS, (pronounced KO-ko-rozz), established in 1998, is a grassroots volunteer network of thousands of backyard weather observers of all ages and backgrounds who measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow) in their local communities.

After big events like January’s winter storms and past hurricanes (Matthew, Hermine, Irene), reports from CoCoRaHS volunteers become a part of the local weather history. 

Volunteers must use an official four-inch plastic rain gauge, purchased through the website for about $31 plus shipping, and are required to take a simple training module online and use the CoCoRaHS website to submit their reports.

For details, click on the “Join CoCoRaHS” emblem on the upper right side of the main website.

The website contains a list of current training sessions in local areas, or training can be done online. 

Observations are immediately available on the website for the public to view, said David Glenn, CoCoRaHS state co-coordinator and meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead City.

The process takes only five minutes a day, but the impact to the community is tenfold: By providing high quality, accurate measurements, the observers supplement existing networks and provide useful data to scientists, resource managers and decision makers.

Glenn said volunteers are especially needed in rural locations, areas of higher terrain, and areas near the coast.

“A benefit of the program to the National Weather Service is the ability to receive timely reports of significant weather (hail, intense rainfall, or localized flooding) from CoCoRaHS observers that can assist forecasters in issuing and verifying warnings for severe thunderstorms,” he said.

“Monitoring weather and climate conditions in North Carolina is no easy feat,” said Heather Dinon Aldridge, assistant state climatologist and interim assistant director of the State Climate Office, based at North Carolina State University. “CoCoRaHS volunteers help by painting a better picture of precipitation patterns across North Carolina, filling in data gaps where there are no nearby stations.” 

CoCoRaHS came about as a result of a devastating flash flood that hit Fort Collins, Colorado, in July 1997. A local severe thunderstorm dumped over a foot of rain in several hours while other portions of the city had only modest rainfall. The ensuing flood caught many by surprise and caused $200 million in damages.

North Carolina became the twenty-first state to establish the CoCoRaHS program in 2007, and by 2010, the CoCoRaHS network had reached all 50 states with nearly 10,000 observations being reported each day. 

 CoCoRaHS North Carolina can also be reached on Facebook and Twitter.

Backyard weather gauge courtesy of CoCoRaHs

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