Winter off the record

SOUTH BEND, IND – Brutal, harsh, ruthless and unrelenting, we’ve run out of words to describe the winter of 2013-2014. Yet with around 100 inches of snow, this winter won’t be going down in the record books.

Since mid November, it’s snowed and snowed and snowed. In the month of January alone we saw over 40 inches of snow. There’s one problem, no one is officially keeping that record.

“Currently we don’t have any observers at the [South Bend] airport at this time” says Jeff Logsdon, acting Meteorologist in Charge at the National Weather Service (NWS) office of northern Indiana.

Snow used to be measured by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) workers 5 times a day but this program was cut in 2011.

Since 2011, the NWS has hired paid observers who live near the airport to fill the gap in recordings.

However with a measurement required at Midnight, 1AM, 7AM, 1PM and 7PM it’s “Proved too much” Logsdon says, for an individual.

The NWS is still looking for an individual or possibly group / business (with a 24 hour cycle) that would be interested in being a paid observer.

In the meantime what are we to do? Getting one consistent observation could prove to be difficult. Instead of one routine observation, what if we gathered many?

Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow network (CoCoRaHS) is a volunteer organization set-up after a deadly flash flood in Colorado that killed 5 people.

“CoCoRaHS is very important in northwest Indiana and southwest and lower Michigan especially for lake effect snow” says Sam Lashley, NWS Senior Meteorologist. “Those snowfall measurements really help us improve our warnings and get the information back out to the public.”

The goal is to get more CoCoRaHS observers in every county in Michiana. The more reports, the more forecasts improve.

“There is some dedication and there is some need for reliability and accuracy, you don't want people to say ‘oh we got 3 inches of snow today’ and go out and report it, we want people to measure it," said Jerry Martin, CoCoRaHS coordinator and first observer in Elkhart County.

He started doing it because he’s an active gardener and wanted to know why his house seemed to get less rain than other locations in the area.

CoCoRaHS is an easy program to do, many volunteers are retired. All the training, sign-up and supplies can be found online.

With your help we can get our winters back officially on the record.

Winter 2013-2014, will still go down in the record books, but with an asterisk next to it. The official snowfall will be an average of other area recordings.

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