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Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network seeks volunteers

Using a simple gauge, volunteer weather watcher Barry

Using a simple gauge, volunteer weather watcher Barry Dlouhy checks his backyard rain gauge on Aug. 11, 2016. The Bay Shore resident is part of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network -- CoCoRaHS for short. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

About 13 Long Islanders arise each morning and go outside to measure how much rain may have fallen into the simple plastic gauge in their yards.

Henry Reges hopes the number of these citizen scientists will grow.

The West Islip native visited the National Weather Service’s Upton office on Friday on a mission: to get more Long Islanders to join the 12,000 or so volunteers nationwide who measure and report precipitation data from their homes every day.

“Having grown up on Long Island, I appreciate the diversity of weather that runs the breadth of the Island,” said Reges, who is national coordinator of an organization with the catchy name of Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network — CoCoRaHS for short.

The thinking is that more than 13 daily reports are called for to capture all that diverse data.

Reges, also a meteorologist based at Colorado State University, likens the situation to that of the density of pixels on a camera — “the more pixels the better.” He said he hopes to bring the ranks on Long Island to at least 100.

The organization’s slogan is “Because every drop counts.”

“Every drop counts,” Reges said, “and so does every observer!”

One of the 13 Long Island volunteers is 66-year-old Barry Dlouhy, a retired high school English teacher who each morning checks the gauge in his Bay Shore yard.

Right then and there, he says, he logs into a mobile phone app and taps in the information — including a zero when there’s been no precipitation. He also measures snow, and even hail when that’s the precipitation of the day.

The information shows up in the maps of cocorahs.org, a public website that appeals to the likes of climatologists, emergency managers, mosquito control professionals, farmers, gardeners, meteorologists looking to verify their forecasts and hydrologists studying drought.

As a boater and fisherman with a natural interest in weather conditions, Dlouhy says that he and his wife enjoy seeing how much rain actually falls in their area.

It’s also “nice to know I’m contributing something positive,” he says.

Indeed, the CoCoRaHS data is highly regarded by the National Weather Service, said Tim Morrin, a meteorologist with the weather service and observation program leader based in Upton — so much so, that the weather service automatically pulls the readings into its storm reports.

The data also serves as an important supplement to readings from the weather service’s official stations and trained volunteer observers.

Reges’ visit, coincidentally, comes on the second anniversary of an epic rain event focused on one section of Suffolk that broke the state’s record for rainfall for a 24-hour period.

From Aug. 12, 2014 into the next morning, 13.57 inches fell at Long Island MacArthur Airport.

Cocorahs.org shows just one entry for Aug. 13, 2014 in the Islip area — for 13.02 inches of rain.

But even that one entry “is a great example of verification” of an extreme event, said Jessica Spaccio, a climatologist with the Northeast Regional Climate Center, based at Cornell University.

More such measurements could go a long way to “help fill in the gaps,” she said.

Interested would-be volunteers can get on board with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network by registering to become a CoCoRaHS observer.

The site sells an 11-inch gauge that costs around $30, and features a series of training videos that explain the daily measuring and reporting procedures.

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