Lake effect snow: What can you do? Volunteer to report it!

lake effect snow fall leaves Amherst NY
This was the lake effect snow on Friday in the Eggertsville area of Amherst. By Saturday morning, the snow was gone and I was raking leaves. Meanwhile, the Southern Tier got heavy snow Saturday morning, creating low visibility and closing some roads. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

 

by Connie Oswald Stofko

As I write this, some of us can see the grass on our lawns while other folks in Western New York have had to shovel. That’s the wonder of lake effect snow.

The bands of lake effect snow (or rain) can be very narrow, so one small area can get dumped on while folks nearby get nothing.

And that’s why meterologists need your help.

Weather reporting stations can be 15 miles apart, while a band of lake effect weather might be only a mile or two wide, said Dan Kelly, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Buffalo. That band could easily miss the weather stations we have in place.

Remember the Snowvember Storm of 2014? Some South Cheektowaga residents got a winter’s worth of snow—60 inches—during that storm. But just a mile away, the National Weather Service office at the airport recorded only 16 inches, Kelly said.

That’s why Kelly hopes Western New Yorkers will volunteer with a non-profit group supported by the National Weather Service called the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, known as CoCoRaHS (pronounced kō-kō-rahz).

Each time there is a rain, hail or snow storm, CoCoRaHS volunteers take measurements of precipitation.

“Having volunteers fills in the gaps and gives us a better idea of what’s going on,” Kelly said. “It gives us more accurate information.

“Lake effect snow is big in Western New York, and the more readings we can get, the better.”

Volunteers are asked to buy the rain gauge they will use, Kelly said. It’s not expensive. The idea is that if you pay for the rain gauge, you will actually use it. See the gauge here. 

You can sign up here to volunteer in the United States, or sign up here in Canada.  

The data that volunteers collect is used not only by the National Weather Service, but by other meterologists, farmers, the US Department of Agriculture, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, emergency managers, teachers and people working with water conservation, storm water management and mosquito control.

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