Well, Nancy and I are now officially enrolled in cocorahs (kō-, kō-, räz); an acronym which sounds like something concocted at the Defense Department but is actually a program affiliated with the Weather Service where volunteers note their daily observations of precipitation. The official name of this voluntary group of precipitation posters is The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. We’ve ordered our way cool precipitation gauge ($27.25 from firstname.lastname@example.org) which we will be setting up at the Farm after we complete our online training. Note: If you are interested in weather and you decide to visit the Weather Your Way website you might want to leave your credit card some distance from your computer—they definitely have some items you might need or at least find interesting. We also ordered a minimum reading thermometer, so in the future we won’t have to guess how cold it got overnight when, for instance, most of the hydrangeas froze. I was thinking it would be fun to have an anemometer to measure the wind velocity. We wouldn’t have to just complain generally about the recent high winds. We could be specific. “Yea, we’re sure sorry about that lovely tree you had on order. A 56 mile-per-hour gust kind of ripped it out of the pot…” But I guess we can wait on the anemometer.
With our proximity to the Fox River and our livelihood of growing and selling products that are quite sensitive to how much water they receive, our participation in cocorahs seems simple enough. We first learned of the network at the annual U of I Extension LaSalle County Spring Garden Seminar in March where Bill Morris of the National Weather Service’s Romeoville office offered a presentation and hosted a Weather Service information booth. Bill is one of those people who is pretty easy to like and listen to, with exhaustive knowledge, great anecdotes, and the ability and desire to easily connect with all kinds of folks. Bill’s specialty is hydrology wherein he monitors and predicts river water levels based on precipitation and other factors. Between Bill’s stories and the really great precipitation gauge on display, I was hooked and knew we would have to become part of the network (www.cocorahs.org).
Perhaps the funniest thing I learned from Bill involves NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radio, which is a broadcast via a special radio frequency provided by the Weather Service. We have an old set of walk-talkies at the Farm which have the ability to receive NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts. When really sinister looking storm clouds approach, someone often unearths one of those radios. I kind of like NOAA weather radio. To me the flat monotone voice is that of an older male with a kind of Norwegian accent. Often the man has warned of storms or lines of storms so accurately that we could see them approach and experience their fury as he continued to warn of their potency and path of travel. So I asked Bill about this guy at NOAA weather radio. I told him I wanted to meet the guy. Bill was pretty prepared for this, apparently the Norwegian weather announcer has had a lot of fans through the years and has attracted a lot of interest (and generally everybody agrees that he is Norwegian). But it turns out that the announcer is a machine. And no one exactly knows why he has the Norwegian accent. Bill invited me to visit the National Weather Service office in Romeoville sometime. I probably won’t be going. I had a bond with this guy, call him Lars. We shared some amazing storms, “a powerful cell passing Sheridan moving east at 30 miles per hour.” It’s like finding out there is no Santa, but I’ll still be thinking of Lars those mornings after the big storms when I am checking the new rain gauge and emailing the results.