Rain, Snow, and Ice

Here in Durham County, the wintry precipitation that started on Monday has kept many of us at home. Schools and businesses have been closed due to icy conditions. When the first flakes fell, my family hoped to wake up to enough snow for sledding – a rare treat in Durham. My kids were able to make the best of it, but I was left wondering how much snow we’d have had if Monday’s precipitation hadn’t switched to sleet and rain.

Fortunately, I receive a rainfall update from Ellen Herron, a former Master Gardener Volunteer enjoying retirement near the southern Durham/Chapel Hill border. Ellen reported that 0.57 inches of “melted equivalent” fell in that storm. If it had fallen as snow alone, we would have been shoveling 5-6 inches from our driveways and sidewalks! Ellen has been volunteering with CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network), a group of volunteer weather observers tracking precipitation throughout the US and Canada since at least 2010, first from Craven County, and currently from her home in Chapel Hill.

Precipitation map, morning of 2/17/15
Precipitation map, morning of 2/17/15

According to Ellen, in the 2014 Water Year (which runs from Oct.1 – Sept. 30), 15 stations reported rainfall in Durham County, and about half of these made reports on 250 or more days of that year. New volunteers of all ages are always welcome. To apply, go to http://www.cocorahs.org and sign up. Volunteers will need to purchase a standard rain gauge. The site provides information on what type of gauge is needed as well as training slideshows and videos. Internet access to record observations is also needed in order to participate. This would be a fun project for anyone interested in weather.

-Ann Barnes