Plan Ahead for Severe Weather

by Ann Barnes, EMGV

Severe weather is in the news. Do you have a plan in place in case a disaster strikes here? Durham County Emergency Management has a Pre-Disaster Planning Guide available on their website. Even if Irma continues to track west of the Triangle, it’s a good time to create a plan for your home and family (including pets). (Spanish version available here)

Since the current forecast calls for a perfect gardening weekend, take some time to get your yard prepared for possible wind and heavy rain that could affect us early next week. Secure outdoor furniture, garbage cans, potted plants, bird feeders, toys, and any garden art that could blow around and become a projectile. A sheltered location on your property will do if it is not possible to move items indoors. Make sure that outdoor drains and gutters are clear of debris. If you see broken or damaged tree limbs, consider trimming them. Harvest vegetables and fruits growing in your yard. Partially ripe produce will continue to ripen, so don’t let those tomatoes and peppers blow away!



Getting ready for a hurricane

What To Do Before a Hurricane Arrives
Here are’s suggestions for what to do 36 hours prior to a hurricane:

  • Turn on your TV or radio in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies
  • Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. For example, you can call, text, email or use social media. Remember that during disasters, sending text messages is usually reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded.
  • Review your evacuation plan with your family. You may have to leave quickly so plan ahead.
  • Keep your car in good working condition, and keep the gas tank full; stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.
  • Never drive through flooded streets. Water may be deeper than you expect.
  • Make sure you have food that can be prepared without electricity, drinking water, and any necessary medication before a hurricane arrives. Don’t forget your pets.
  • You may want to have cash on hand in case the power is out for several days.
  • Around the house and garden, make sure to secure garbage cans, grills, outdoor furniture, hanging baskets and planters, bicycles and toys, and any other objects that could become airborne in high winds.

Additional Sources:

-Compiled by Ann Barnes, EMGV

Citizen Science Program needs your help observing the weather!

Do you ever wonder how much rainfall you received from a recent thunderstorm? How about snowfall during a winter storm? If so, an important volunteer weather observing program needs your help! The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow network, or CoCoRaHS, is looking for new volunteers across North Carolina. The grassroots effort is part of a growing national network of home-based and amateur rain spotters with a goal of providing a high density precipitation network that will supplement existing observations.

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. CoCoRaHS was born in 1998 with the intent of doing a better job of mapping and reporting intense storms. As more volunteers participated, rain, hail, and snow maps were produced for every storm showing fascinating local patterns that were of great interest to scientists and the public. Recently, drought reporting has also become an important observation within the CoCoRaHS program across the nation. In fact, drought observations from CoCoRaHS are now being included in the National Integrated Drought Information System.

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 ten thousand observations being reported each day.  Through CoCoRaHS, thousands of volunteers, young and old, document the size, intensity, duration and patterns of rain, hail, and snow by taking simple measurements in their own backyards.

Volunteers may obtain an official rain gauge through the CoCoRaHS website ( ) for about $30 plus shipping. Besides the need for an official 4 inch plastic rain gauge, volunteers are required to take a simple training module online and use the CoCoRaHS website to submit their reports. Observations are immediately available on maps and reports for the public to view. The process takes only five minutes a day, but the impact to the community is tenfold: By providing high quality, accurate measurements, the observers are able to supplement existing networks and provide useful results to scientists, resource managers, decision makers and other users.

“North Carolina has one of the most complex climates in the U.S.,” said Dr. Ryan Boyles, state climatologist and director of the State Climate Office, based at North Carolina State University.  “Data gathered from CoCoRaHS volunteers are very important in better understanding local weather and climate patterns.”

“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,” says David Glenn, CoCoRaHS State Co-coordinator and meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead City.

How does one become a CoCoRaHS observer? Go to the CoCoRaHS website above and click on the “Join CoCoRaHS” emblem on the upper right side of the main website.  After registering, take the simple online training, order your 4 inch rain gauge and start reporting!

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

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