Local weather observers help fill in gaps for professionals
REGAL -- The driest spot in Kandiyohi County was once known best for being "wet.''
Bob Brauchler has the numbers -- and history -- to prove it.
Brauchler is a farmer and custom hay baler who lives just east of Regal in Kandiyohi County's northeast corner.
He is also a volunteer weather observer with the Cooperative Weather Observing Network. When the rain falls, Brauchler makes a point of checking his backyard gauge and punching in the amounts he finds on an Internet website.
He will also report on special weather events, such as storms or heavy fog.
Come winter, he keeps track of snowfall amounts and periodically scoops up snow from the yard to report how much moisture it actually represents.
The information is very valuable to the National Weather Service, according to Michelle Margraf. She is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen and the coordinator for the network of observers.
The information provided by observers like Brauchler helps with everything from assessing the threat of flooding to helping meteorologists analyze how a storm system took shape.
The amount of precipitation that falls can vary greatly in a local area. Observers help "fill in the gaps'' and provide a more complete picture of the weather, Margraf said.
It's easy to do, and it's interesting, according to Brauchler. He likes to check the weather observer's website to see what others are reporting.
And as a farmer and custom hay baler, he has a keen interest in keeping track of the weather. He can tell of many occasions when heavy rains fell on one field, while just a few miles down the road the sun was shining and he was making hay.
He's been keeping track of precipitation as an observer here since 1999, and knows this for a fact: "This is the driest spot in Kandiyohi County,'' he said of the area near Regal.
The rainfall amounts he records are almost always lower than those reported by another observer in Willmar, he said.
He also knows his history. Kandiyohi County was the last county in Minnesota to give up on Prohibition. It stayed "dry'' until 1966, while neighboring Stearns County went "wet'' with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. That made a popular establishment near Regal in Stearns County -- and just outside the Kandiyohi County line -- a popular destination for many years.
Brauchler's next favorite destination is his rain gauge, and he's hardly alone.
Margraf said that there are many people who enjoy keeping a close eye on the weather. She's hoping more will become interested in serving as observers and helping with this important work.
The need is here: In the six-county area surrounding Willmar and including Kandiyohi County, there are only six cooperating observers at this time.
To learn more about the program or to become part of the network of observers, contact Michelle Margraf at 952-361-6708 or check the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, Snow Network website: http://www.cocorahs.org/