Rain totals subject of heated debates

By David Stevens
Editor

Clovis received 4.5 inches of rain on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Unofficially, rainfall totals ranged from 2.46 inches on the north edge of town to 1.79 inches at Cannon Air Force Base, to 6 inches in individuals’ yards.

The range, and the smaller totals reported in particular, upset some Facebook commentators.

Photo courtesy of Ray Martinez.

Photo courtesy of Ray Martinez.

• “Is that all? There is still 2 feet of water in the dip between Starlite and 21st Street,” read one post.

• “2.46 inches in Clovis? Someone was drunk,” posted another.

• “Clovis is always trying to hide the truth. They know they got more than 2 inches of rain.”

While it’s possible the city government has a little-known department responsible for manipulating weather statistics — ask for the line items under the “miscellaneous” funding when filing your public records requests — it seems more likely not every area of Clovis received the same amount of rain during Wednesday morning’s deluge.

Staff photo: Joshua Lucero Flood waters engulfed Dennis Chavez Park and the streets between North Edwards Street and North Hull Street.

Staff photo: Joshua Lucero
Flood waters engulfed Dennis Chavez Park and the streets between North Edwards Street and North Hull Street.

Also, there is no “official” weather recording station in the heart of Clovis. National Weather Service Meteorologist Jason Frazier said the 4.5 inch total announced Wednesday was an average from multiple sources, some of them simply residents with rain gauges on their back fence.

NWS had official volunteer weather watchers in the city limits from about 1910 to 2011, but even then days or weeks went without data because the designated helpers would be out of town, too sick to gather the information or simply forget about it.

Federal cutbacks have contributed to not lately having a designated weather watcher in Clovis. The volunteers receive no financial incentive anyway, but NWS has limited staff available to spend the two or three days necessary to install its recording equipment and train the volunteers.

NWS’ Curry County recording stations are at the Clovis Municipal Airport northeast of town, Cannon, and the New Mexico University Agriculture Science Center, which is 15 miles north of the city. That’s why it considers reports from individuals and radar information when compiling city data.

Local television and radio stations have their own recording stations or volunteer weather watchers in town, which is why media reports can vary widely.

Portales has a much more “official” site, near the center of town, Frazier said. Volunteers manning that location have been reporting data to NWS since 1905. So there’s maybe less debate about the accuracy of rainfall totals in Roosevelt County’s most populated city.

But no community will ever have consistent rain totals on any given day — partly because it rains more in some places, less in others, and partly because we’d hate to be denied the opportunity to argue about who got the most.

David Stevens is editor for the Clovis News Journal and Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at:
dstevens@pntonline.com