Rainfall network serves a vital role

Wolfskin’s Wayne Hughes collects precipitation measurements from other CoCoRaHS volunteers and sends them to The Echo every week.

Lesley Randall // For The Oglethorpe Echo

Michael Moody runs the Broad River Outpost at the Wildcat Bridge in Danielsville. For him, the amount of rain can determine if his business runs or not. 

“Water is our life,” said Moody, who lives in the Glade community. “Too much precipitation makes for floods, too little makes for droughts, both of which can affect our quality of life, hobbies, businesses and our home properties.” 

Moody also belongs to a dedicated group of nine rain watchers in Oglethorpe County who report their measurements to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS, for short), a community-based organization that tracks precipitation. Wolfskin’s Wayne Hughes compiles the data and reports to The Oglethorpe Echo on a weekly basis. 

“It’s rewarding to be part of an international network of tens of thousands of observers providing vetted granular data that can be scaled up for monitoring our climate,” said Pete Kalla, an observer in Sandy Cross. 

Pam Knox, director of the UGA Weather Network and agricultural climatologist, stated in a UGA Extension article that March was a warmer and wetter month in the Southeast compared to past years. 

“The result of all that warmth and moisture is an early bloom and green-up of trees and shrubs across the region,” Knox said.

Moody knows too much or too little rain can result in his business shutting down for multiple days.

“We rent boats and run shuttles on different sections of the river,” he said. “Rainfall and runoff directly affect the conditions of the river in terms of its height.”

Proper rain measurements are also crucial to the daily lives of many throughout counties like Oglethorpe County, where agriculture plays a crucial role. 

“Depending on the amount and type of rains, farmers, ranchers, small town water suppliers and paddlers all pay attention to the type and amount of rainfall locally and in our regional areas,” Moody said. 

For others, measuring rain is strictly out of curiosity. 

“My father had a dimestore-variety rain gauge for many years, for his own information and to satisfy his curiosity,” Kalla said. “He was always very interested in the weather.”

However, 20 years ago, Kalla stumbled on CoCoRaHS by accident. 

“My wife and I started a garden as soon as we moved here,” he said. “I wanted a high-quality rain gauge for the garden, and when I searched for one, I found out about CoCoRaHS and the local network.” 

He has been measuring precipitation ever since.

Having CoCoRaHS observers in a region gives accurate measurements and predictions for precipitation levels. However, to be an observer for CoCoRaHS, proper rain gauges are required. 

“These gauges are very accurate and can measure up to 1/100 of an inch,” said Gwen Hirsch, who lives in Smithonia. “Everyone on the CoCoRaHS network must use the same gauge so measurements are consistent across the country.”

Hirsch became a volunteer after reading that CoCoRaHS needed observers in a University of Georgia publication in 2008. She “hesitated” when she learned that the required rain gauge cost $40. 

“I have since purchased many gauges as gifts for friends,” Hirsch said. “I had a career in a number of different research labs, so I enjoy measuring things.”