Rich Semmelmeier on the roof of his Boynton Beach home with his weather station.

Rich Semmelmeier on the roof of his Boynton Beach home with his weather station.

How many times have forecasters called for showers and storms, yet it's nice and sunny at your house — or vice versa?

Here's your chance to join a group of weather-watchers whose mission is to help forecasters get it right.

"I've been kind of a weather nut my whole life," said Jan Lederman, explaining why each day he records rainfall in his backyards and sends the information to the National Weather Service in Miami.

If any of his readings are 3 inches or more, the weather service might immediately issue an urban flood advisory, said meteorologist Evelyn Rivera, who helps coordinate the group of 100 or so grassroots volunteers.


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Like most of the volunteers, Lederman holds down a day job — in his case as a Hollywood Realtor. But he also is a trained weather spotter and a HAM radio operator, and was the first to volunteer for the rain watching group when it started in 2007.

His information has helped the weather service on numerous occasions.

"After Hurricane Isaac, I went out and there was seven inches of rain in my gauge," he said, referring to the storm that swamped South Florida in August 2012. "The weather service said that was one of the heaviest readings. That was kind of cool."

Rich Semmelmeier, a science teacher at Park Vista High School in Boynton Beach, reported more than 15 inches after storms inundated the eastern portion of his city in January.

Semmelmeier, who gives a course in meteorology, also provides personalized weather reports to his neighbors, thanks to the full weather station he has at his home.

"I've always had my own weather station wherever I lived," he said. "It's a fun hobby."

The rain data helps the weather service verify the accuracy of its radar readings, said meteorologist Barry Baxter. And, much like the volunteers, each morning the service checks the rain gauge at its complex in southwest Miami-Dade County, Rivera said.

Melissa Griffin, who coordinates the program statewide, said without the volunteers, the weather service would have to rely on only a few weather stations, normally placed at airports.

"It does help us give us a better picture of rainfall patterns in Florida," she said.

Among the volunteers are nursery and farm owners, "who have rain gauges in different parts of their fields and groves so they can tell where to irrigate," Griffin said.

Other volunteers are snowbirds, who "come down to Florida for six months, then they go back North and observe the rainfall in their home states," she said. "Everybody loves weather."

The program hopes to sign up another 500 volunteers in Florida this month under a "March madness" campaign. "We are always looking for more observers," said Griffin.

Those interested in joining the program, officially dubbed the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, must purchase an approved rain gauge for about $30, have a computer and take an online training course. For information, visit cocorahs.org.

kkaye@tribune.com or 561-243-6530