The National Weather Service in Dodge City uses a variety of sources to gather weather data across the state.
Several volunteer locations across the state collect weather data and send it to the NWS to help provide an accurate account of weather related events.
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network records temperature, moisture, wind speed and hail and other factors then transmits them to NWS via a special sending unit at each location, said Ray Burgert, NWS meteorologist.
One of those Cocorahs is located in the Pratt County EMS Center located next to Pratt Regional Medical Center.
Members of the EMS staff gather the data and relay it to the NWS. It only takes a few minutes but combined with the information from the other stations across the state, it gives the NWS good coverage of weather events across the state.
In some locations, these volunteers are extremely valuable because some areas of the state have small populations with lots of space between reporting areas.
“It’s really helpful in southwest Kansas where we don’t have a city every 10 miles,” Burgert said. “It helps us fill in the gaps.”
Reports are sent in every day and when a volunteer is absent they can have a substitute send in the information.
The more stations in operation, the better the NWS can evaluate the outcome of a weather event. Precipitation amounts can vary in a short distance.
In a snow event on Feb. 5, a station 1.2 miles southeast of Preston recorded six inches of snow, a station 1.6 miles southeast of Pratt recorded 9.5 inches of snow and a station 3.2 miles northwest of Preston also recorded six inches of snow while the station in Pratt recorded seven inches of snow.
The information can help the NWS also determine the impact on drought areas across the state.
Anyone can operate a Cocorahs station, it just takes an interested weather enthusiast willing to send in the information.
The NWS supplies all the equipment necessary to measure moisture, wind speed, snow and even a hail pad.
Most of the equipment is fairly simple but very effective. The snow is measured on a snowboard that is flat, wooden, white and has a flag so the volunteer can located it when it is covered with snow.
Hail data is collected from a hail pad that is made of Styrofoam and records the size of hail by the size of the imprints.
Anyone wanting to establish a Cocorahs site can go online to cocorahs.org and fill out an application on-line. The site includes information about operating the site and a training slide show.
The Cocorahs volunteer program is coordinated through the state Extension Climatologist Mary Knapp in Manhattan.
Besides Cocorahs, the NWS also has a cooperative observer program that provides more complete data. Information about the Cooperative Observer program is available on-line at nws.noaa.gov/om/coop for those interested in getting involved in this near real-time forecast program.
This program also includes automated systems. Data is collected daily then sent in at the end of the month.