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CoCoRaHS came about because of a devastating flash flood that hit Fort Collins, Colorado in July 1997. A localized storm 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, caused $200 million in damages, and resulted in five deaths. CoCoRaHS was born in 1998 with the intent of doing a better job of mapping and reporting intense storms. Now the largest provider of daily precipitation observations in the United States, CoCoRaHS has been measuring precipitation in the Canadian Provinces, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands for the past several years.
Each morning, hundreds of volunteers across the state head out to check their rain gauges and enter their information on an interactive web site, www.CoCoRaHS.org. Entered rainfall reports automatically plot on national and state maps. In all, more than 10,000 volunteers participate nationwide each day.
The month of March is the perfect time to join the program. CoCoRaHS March Madness is a friendly recruiting contest between all 50 states to see who can recruit the most new volunteers during the 31 days of March. The winning state receives the “CoCoRaHS Cup” to keep and exhibit for the year. In 2008, both South Carolina and Georgia joined the CoCoRaHS network, and in that same year, South Carolina won the contest. In 2018, South Carolina won the “CoCoRaHS Cup” again by recruiting 178 new volunteers. Georgia also made a great showing with 55 new observers and placing eighth in the traditional category.
The process takes only five minutes per day, but the impact to the community is tremendous. By providing high quality, accurate measurements, observers are able to provide important data to the National Weather Service, climatologists, civil engineers, farmers and other decision makers. To help monitor flooding potential during severe thunderstorms, winter storms and other significant weather events, the National Weather Service is directly relayed special reports of hail and heavy precipitation.
To join this fun, educational and community-based network, go to www.CoCoRaHS.org. From this site, new volunteers can obtain an official 4” rain gauge for roughly $30. In addition, CoCoRaHS volunteers may attend a training class or take simple online training, which is also available through the CoCoRaHS web site.
For additional information about CoCoRaHS March Madness, please visit www.CoCoRaHS.org or contact your CoCoRaHS Regional Coordinator, Emily McGraw or Julie Packett, at 843-747-5860. You can also check out their fun promotional trailer!