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Weather watchers sought

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By PHILIP SAYBLACK
Staff Writer

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A nationally-known meteorology organization is searching for some aspiring weather watchers in the Twin Counties in a new push for volunteers.

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is looking for amateur weather watchers who are interested in helping the privately held corporation gather precipitation data that is used every day by the National Weather Service. David Glenn, CoCoRaHS state co-coordinator, said the group is looking for volunteers statewide.

“We are in need of new observers across the entire state,” Glenn said. “We would like to emphasize rural locations, areas of higher terrain and areas near the coast.”

The organization currently has almost 3,000 volunteers in North Carolina. Almost 30 of those volunteers are in Nash County and 14 are in Edgecombe County. National Weather Service Meteorologist Casey Dail said she did not know if CoCoRaHS has a goal for the number of volunteers that it wants to have statewide, adding she thought the association welcomed as many as possible.

Dail said CoCoRaHS volunteers’ data is an invaluable resource in the National Weather Service’s daily operations.

“The volunteers’ information is a great help,” Dail said. “We get quite a bit of our precipitation information from CoCoRaHS. That data helps us determine weather patterns short-term by comparing precipitation numbers from other areas. If we don’t have stations in given regions, the volunteers’ data can and does help us make calculations more precisely for our forecasts.”

Glenn agreed, adding the importance of volunteers’ data is far-reaching.

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

Dail said volunteers’ data helped determine last year’s rain totals for Tarboro and Rocky Mount, which she said averaged 50 to 60 inches. Those totals, Dail said, were average to slightly above average for the region. She added volunteers’ data also helped determine snowfall totals in the region, which averaged approximately one inch this past winter, showing again the importance of volunteers and their data.

Dail said the process of becoming a CoCoRaHS volunteer is easy. It involves taking online training courses through the group’s website at http://www.cocorahs.org and filling out a volunteer application.

Dail stressed the training includes viewing a handful of videos and slideshows showing how to properly set rain gauges to gather precipitation data. Potential volunteers can either use their own rain gauge to record precipitation levels at their homes or they can purchase a rain gauge through the organization. 

There is no deadline to register to become a CoCoRaHS volunteer.

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