MONROE TWP. – Clarion County will soon have a new way of measuring precipitation totals throughout its area thanks to a donation from the Walmart Foundation.
Gathered at the retail chain’s Monroe Township location on Nov. 2, representatives from Walmart presented Clarion County Department of Public Safety officials with a $1,000 donation to develop an in-county volunteer group of “rain gauge readers.”
“We really appreciate Walmart’s donation,” Clarion County Department of Public Safety deputy director Randall Stahlman said, noting that the store’s contribution will cover the purchase of 25 manual rain gauges that will record rainfall totals at several locations throughout the county.
The new gauges will replace the current IFLOWS system for reporting rainfall amounts, which after more than 40 years is no longer being funded by the National Weather Service.
“Neither the National Weather Service or PEMA has the funding anymore to maintain that system and it died off,” Stahlman explained. He said that there are currently eight IFLOW gauges in Clarion County, none of which have been producing readings. “We’ve seen more counties relying on their own methods for collecting this information.”
Unlike the IFLOWS system which remotely sent its data to state and local weather officials, Stahlman said the new gauges are completely manual and will require a group of volunteers to obtain the readings.
According to Stahlman, the manual gauges consist of a round tube that will hold up to eight inches of rain with a center tube that holds one inch of water. The gauges will also be able to measure snowfall amounts.
“[Volunteers] get that, dump it out and record it,” he noted. He added that volunteers would not only be asked to report weekly rain totals regularly, but provide additional readings during severe weather events to help the county prepare for potential flooding hazards.
“When it comes to severe weather it’s important to get as much information as possible,” Stahlman continued, explaining that the county will keep its own database for the readings, but will also be able to forward the information to the National Weather Service.
Although volunteers will not need special training to read the rain gauges, Stahlman said the county will have an online data system available to readers for easier reporting.
“The county will offer help to those interested in learning the online system,” he said, explaining that data can also be reported to the county by hand. “It’s not mandatory though.”
While Stahlman has yet to determine where exactly the new gauges will be placed, he said he is looking for locations where “good readings” can be obtained from each of the county’s three watersheds — Allegheny River, Clarion River and Red Bank Creek.
Stahlman said last Friday that he planned to order the new rain gauges that afternoon with the hope of having everything up and running by next month.
“The first thing we have to do is identify the areas or places in the county where we want to set the rain gauges; then we’ll start looking for volunteers,” he said. “We’ll probably start with the fire departments and go from there.”