Severe Rainfall Irregularities at the N&O

In following the rainfall accumulations over the last few days, there is an enormous discrepancy between rainfall amounts published in the printed News & Observer and at Weather Underground. The problems lie with the latter (appropriate verbiage, wouldn’t you say?).

Day WU N&O
Wed 1.72 0.27
Thu 0.08 0.07
Fri 2.19 1.37
Sat 0.37 0.37
TOT 4.36 2.08

Anyone with a rain gauge can tell you that Wednesday’s torrential rainfall, especially at 9am, produced more than just 0.27″ of rain. They can also tell you that we got more than just 1.37″ of rain on Friday. The rain was so hard that it awakened us at one point, and from reports, these rains were not spotty. The result is an approximate 50% misreporting of rainfall accumulations. Note that both sources claim to report the RDU Airport readings.

Note also that the N&O’s Actual Month To Date gauge (found on the last page of the Local section) reads 4.66″ while in Thursday’s paper it read 0.57″. According to that statistic this event must have produced 4.09″ of rain, much closer to wunderground’s tally than the N&O’s daily tally.

The problem here is that people likely pay attention to just two statistics, Year to Date (a very arbitrary measure) and Yesterday’s Precipitation. The conclusion many would make is that:

  • we have a serious rainfall deficit and,
  • we didn’t get enough rainfall “yesterday” to help

The conclusion it seems they want us to make is to increase conservation. The only way to do that is through new laws restricting use. This sentiment is echoed repeatedly through the editorial page and smacks of class warfare and jealousy. Some have even iterated that in periods of water surplus citizens are “not responsible enough” with water and restrictions such as odd/even day watering should become permanent law. While it is not smart to waste treated water (that required energy to produce), the truth is that we have a small to moderate deficit of rain. Here are some facts:

In the worst case scenario, the 90-day period, we’ve gotten 71% of the normal rainfall total. August and September were clearly the months that threw us off. While we still need to conserve water somewhat, the Water Nazi’s case is not improved by misreports of actual rainfall.

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