Jim Pringle, warning coordination meteorologist for the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service, teaches a weather spotting and precipitation measurement training class Wednesday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion. The class trains local residents on how to spot and measure local weather events for the National Weather Service.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Jim Pringle, warning coordination meteorologist for the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service, teaches a weather spotting and precipitation measurement training class Wednesday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion. The class trains local residents on how to spot and measure local weather events for the National Weather Service.

National Weather Service seeks volunteers for weathering watching

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A network that started with a flash flood 12 years ago has a drought of volunteers in western Colorado.

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network actively is seeking volunteers to measure and report precipitation in western Colorado. The National Weather Service, located in Grand Junction, also is seeking volunteers to report severe weather.

On Wednesday, Jim Pringle, National Weather Service coordination meteorologist, conducted basic severe weather spotter training at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion.

Pringle said volunteers were crucial for reporting weather events.

"The National Weather Service needs people at ground level," Pringle said. "Radar and satellite are both great, but that won't tell us exactly what is happening on the ground."

The Network is used by a number of different organizations, ranging from the United States Department of Agriculture to insurance companies, Pringle said.

And it all started with a flood.

Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist, started the network in 1998, a year after a flash flood in Fort Collins. He started the network to accurately measure precipitation, Pringle said.

Because of the disparity in the amount of rainfall in Fort Collins, Doesken decided to try to measure amounts accurately throughout the region, Pringle said.

"Some parts of town had over 12 inches of precipitation, and other parts barely had one," Pringle said. "CoCoRaHS started in Fort Collins to measure the rainfall. It expanded to the Front Range, and eventually throughout all of Colorado."

The Network since has spread to 42 other states with 13,000 volunteers, he said.

But, more help is needed in western Colorado because of the size of the collection area. Pringle said the Network that covers western Colorado also extends to eastern Utah - a total of 52,000 square miles.

"In that same space there are between 450 to 500 severe weather spotters," Pringle said. "And about 150 to 250 CoCoRaHS volunteers.

"That's an awful lot of ground to cover, and that's why we're always looking for people to be storm spotters."

Anyone wishing to volunteer for the National Weather Service is asked to report any weather events, Pringle said.

"We use the volunteers to report severe or hazardous weather like fog or heavy snow," Pringle said. "With the volunteers, the National Weather Service gets real-time reporting."

Network volunteers collect precipitation data every day, and then report it to the Network headquarters, located in Fort Collins.

Pringle said collecting samples for the Network does not take much. No prior experience is needed.

"Each morning they can go out, see how much rain they gathered, and call it in," Pringle said. "It doesn't take much time at all."

The cylindrical rain gauges used by the Network cost $25, and the wedge-shaped gauges used by the National Weather service are free.

Pringle suggests attending training or viewing instructional slides at www.cocorahs.org and http://weather.gov/gjt.

Ben Bulkeley can be reached at 875-1795 or bbulkeley@craigdailypress.com

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