Portions of Hampton Roads have received a good drink of water over the past few weeks from Mother Nature. In fact, heavy showers and thunderstorms dumped anywhere from two to four inches of rain in several communities in a short period of time on Saturday, July 21, 2012. However, there were some areas that did not receive as much rainfall. It’s something we typically see during the summer months, specifically with the pop-up storms. You’ve seen it before, right? It could be raining cats and dogs on the other side of town, but at your house, not a drop from the sky. And while everyone else gets measurable rain over their lawns and gardens, your yard continues to suffer and beg for just a little precipitation.
It’s because of real-life examples like these that emphasize the importance of why every drop of rain counts. It gives us a better illustration of how variable rainfall can be in neighborhoods across the country. There’s an old saying that goes, “Rain doesn’t fall the same on all,” which is true for a lot of us during the summer. So, in order to make sure that every drop is measured, a volunteer program needs your help.
CoCoRaHS, or Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, is a community-based network of volunteers who work together to measure and map precipitation all over the country. The program began in 1998 after a devastating flash flood rocked Fort Collins, Colorado, the year before. A strong storm dumped more than a foot of rain in a matter of hours over portions of the city during that time, while other communities saw lesser amounts. In all, about $200 million worth of damage was done. It’s after this event, however, that officials through the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University developed CoCoRaHS to better report and map storms.
Virginia was the seventh state to join the CoCoRaHS network in October 2005, and since then, thousands of volunteers have joined across the country. Volunteers use high quality 4-inch rain gauges (and in some states hail pads) to take daily measurements of rain, hail, and snow in their backyards. Then, volunteers post that information online to the CoCoRaHS web site. It’s there where scientists, farmers, meteorologists, teachers, engineers, emergency managers and others can access it and use that information for work or educational purposes.
Volunteers are always needed in the CoCoRaHS network. If you’d like to become a volunteer observer, go to cocorahs.org. There, you can fill out an application and find out how you can buy an official rain gauge and also receive training. There are a couple of things to remember before signing up. First, it’s important to make sure that you have a spot in your yard where you can post your rain gauge away from trees or any other canopies. You want to make sure that the rain can fall into your gauge without being intercepted. Also, it’s important to have fun. If you’ve always had an interest in weather, then this might be a great opportunity for you. Check it out!