Beyond the Forecast: How we measure rainfall

Water floods a Garden District street in Dothan as storms move through the Wiregrass area on January 4, 2023.
Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 10:28 AM CST
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - Rainfall is the most standard form of precipitation. We experience rain all year round in our tropical environment. We also experience our fair share of extreme rainfall when hurricanes or severe weather events move through and we see a major increase in rainfall in a short amount of time. This is where we get into flooding issues.

There are several categories for flooding; flash flood, areal flood, and river flood are just a few.

There are many factors that lead to flooding issues, below is a list of a few contributors:

  • Already saturated soil then excessive rainfall
  • Lack of proper runoffs, drains, pipes, etc.
  • Terrain incline/decline
  • Urbanization (roads, concrete slabs, etc.)

Have you ever wondered how meteorologists calculate rainfall totals in your area? Well, there are two main ways we can measure accurate rainfall totals.

First: Traditional Rain Gauges, these gauges have to be approved and monitored by the NWS. They are stationed at every NWS station along with many within the community that specific station covers. The rain gauge has to be set in an approved area that will not have any interference.

Second: Echo Radar, this technology allows meteorologists to use radar to scan and collect rainfall rates then plug in that data to come up with the most accurate rainfall rate.

Let us take a look at the rainfall totals from the line of storms from January 4th, 2023. (the map below has data measured from a local radar)

January 4th
January 4th(WTVY)

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