Over the Hill

In rain as in life, gauge it yourself

Many people no longer trust the National Weather Service’s automated rain gauge at Paso Robles Municipal Airport. If you’re one of those people, you may now get rainfall information from another source.

The city of Paso Robles’ Water Division has a manual rain gauge downtown. Readings from it are to be posted on the Internet starting today. Any weekday morning following a rain, just go to www.pasowater.com around 8:30 or 9 a.m., and follow the prompts.

Four Tribune readers recently wrote letters to the editor disparaging the low rainfall readings for Paso Robles. The low readings came from the automated rain gauge at the airport.

It belongs to the National Weather Service, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is part of an array of Weather Service instruments to monitor airport weather conditions.

John Lindsey, a weather expert who writes a Tribune column, investigated this problem last week. He said the airport’s automated gauge was reporting much lower rainfalls than a manual gauge a few hundred yards away and than other gauges in neighboring areas.

He said Weather Service people would come out soon to check the automated gauge.

The Water Division’s gauge stands near the Municipal Water Works building just west of the 13th Street bridge.

A Water Division worker measures the water in the gauge with a dipstick something like the ones for checking an engine’s oil level. The gauge belongs to the National Weather Service as do the two automated gauges that stand near it.

Because I write for the Tribune, a number of people have complained to me about the erroneous Paso Robles rainfall readings. The complaints seemed to be a combination of “Can’t the government do anything right?” and “Can’t the paper get it right?”

Rain is one of our few remaining community-wide experiences in this age of computer clans and niche-groups. After a heavy rain, we want to know how much our community got.

We want it to be as much as our neighboring communities got or preferably more. It’s a matter of pride, like the high school football team’s reaching the CIF semi-finals. We resent having our rainfall score reported erroneously low.

There’s also a lesson here: It’s OK to doubt what authorities say (even if it’s printed in the paper). So I have my own rain gauge, and I try to have my own life gauge.

Reach Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.