Snow spotters needed in northwest Ohio

NWS Cleveland is looking for volunteers to submit snow reports this winter.
Snow spotters needed in NW Ohio
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 7:10 PM EST
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It’s called the Snow Spotter program, and it’s similar to the Storm Spotter program that’s used during severe weather season. It’s a great way for weather enthusiasts to directly contribute, because the snow reports do impact forecasts issued by the National Weather Service.

“They help us make decisions on either changing the forecast or maybe issuing a warning that we don’t have out yet,” said Rick Garuckas, a meteorologist with NWS Cleveland and head of the Snow Spotter program. “Northwest Ohio has some big gaps that need to be filled by spotters.”

If you’re interested, here’s how it works. You sign up online or over the phone, they assign you a snow spotter ID and provide instructions on how to properly measure snow. You’ll need to make a snowboard, which is just a piece of plywood that’s painted white to minimize melting, plus something like a ruler or yardstick. Measurements are to be taken twice a day.

“So you take one measurement in the morning, clear off the snowboard, then you take another measurement in the evening about 12 hours later and clear off the snowboard,” explained Garuckas. “Then, we provide a link for the person to then use a google form to put their 12-hour snowfall, morning and evening.”

This method of using a snowboard does beg the question, how do you properly measure the snow if it’s been blowing and drifting? Garuckas says, “take measurements around your property of what you have on the ground now and then take an average. So you’ll end up measuring areas that are more drifted versus areas that are less drifted.”

This program is a great way to volunteer for your community, and you don’t need a degree in meteorology.

“Snow measuring is not an exact science,” said Garuckas. “It’s one of the least accurate measurements that we take in the weather community. It is an average. Even at the airports, we have observers that use the same process to measure snowfall.”

If you’re a snow spotter don’t worry, you can still take that winter vacation. If snow falls while you’re gone, there’s no punishment. You just mark the date with “out of town”.

For more instructions about how to sign-up, click here.