The record book vs. the memory book

Jul 25, 2012 By Steven R. Peck

Last Friday, when it finally rained around town for the first time of any significance since mid-May, I looked forward to the official rainfall total from the National Weather Service.

I had just arrived home from work after a walk-around at the Friday Night Cruise downtown when the rain hit, and hit hard, around 7:50 p.m.

Early in the spring we finally replaced the old lava rock roof at our house with a corrugated metal roof, and this was the first time we got to see the evenly spaced rivulets of water shoot off the new roof when it rains.

It went on for about 10 minutes at downpour force, then tapered off for another 5 to 10 minutes.

The next day as I pieced together the Sunday paper, I checked with the weather service for the rainfall total. This was going to be one of the best-read parts of the edition. There's been so little rain this year, and I knew everyone would want to see what the evening drenching had brought.

A few clicks later, here came the weather service's official total from the measuring station near Riverton Regional Airport.

0.01 inch.

That's one 100th of an inch.

It just goes to amplify the nature of the summer Wyoming thunderstorm. Virtually every day the weather forecast mentions "isolated afternoon and evening thunderstorms." The key word is "isolated." These are not big weather systems, but much smaller storms that concentrate their energy on relatively small areas. They occur most days this time of year somewhere in Fremont County, often when there's no one there to see them, no corrugated roof to channel the water, no street festival to interrupt and no weather service rain gauge to measure their output.

For what it's worth, my home gauge collected .24 inch. Now and forever, though, the official rainfall total for July 20 in Riverton is .01.

Oh well. We'll live with .01 in the record book. The memory book, however, is a different story.

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