Weather watcher proves this is the worst winter ever

Al Stencel, Little Falls, sends daily weather data to WCCO and CoCoRaHS

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

“I should have been a meteorologist,” said Al Stencel of Little Falls. “I’m a weather buff. It’s something I’ve always been. I have this fascination with the daily changes.”

Years ago, Stencel was a weather watcher with KSAX Eyewitness News out of Alexandria.

“I did the weather from Little Falls for Mark Anthony,” he said.

Stencel became involved with the television station because he had been reporting the weather for the National Weather Service (NWS) since the early 1990s. It was just last fall when he became a weather watcher for WCCO television from Minneapolis.

Al Stencel of Little Falls takes readings daily from information submitted to an Acu-Rite Weather Center device in his home from the wind speed anemonmeter (picture on the right) in his yard. The anemonmeter measures current, peak and average wind speeds and a sensor within measures temperatures, humidity, barometer readings and more. Above, Stencel shows how he measures precipitation with the use of two sizes of cylinders.

Al Stencel of Little Falls takes readings daily from information submitted to an Acu-Rite Weather Center device in his home from the wind speed anemometer in his yard, pictured to the left. The anemonmeter measures current, peak and average wind speeds and a sensor within measures temperatures, humidity, barometer readings and more. Above, Stencel shows how he measures precipitation with the use of two sizes of cylinders.

“When I started with the NWS, I was a spotter for bad or severe weather. Later I sent information on precipitation and more,” he said. Today, Stencel is a cooperative observer, a precipitation watcher and a trained spotter for severe weather.

Stencel sends the information to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), an offshoot of the NWS with more than 19,000 volunteers.

Data-Collector-bw“The data I send is centralized to my backyard,” Stencel said. “A mile away, or even a block away, it could be totally different.”

Every morning at 6 a.m., Stencel takes readings from the past 24 hours.

“I send WCCO the current temperature and the high and low temperatures for the prior 24 hours,” he said. “I also send the precipitation amounts for the past 24 hours. For example, today’s (April 1) lowest temperature reading for the past 24 hours was 16 degrees. The highest was 43 and there was one inch of precipitation. Also, at 7:50 p.m. the night before, there was hail, thunder and lightening.”

Stencel then sends data to CoCoRaHS, which in turn sends it to NWS.

“CoCoRaHS is mainly interested in precipitation and the water content of any snowfall,” said Stencel. Through the data it receives, CoCoRaHS is able to predict future flooding and droughts and provide precipitation and snowfall maps and tables.

When measuring water content of any given snowfall, Stencel uses a plastic cylinder on his deck which is about a foot in length and three inches across. The snow collects in the cylinder and when the storm ends, Stencel measures how many inches fell. He melts the snow in the cylinder and pours the water into a smaller cylinder. The second cylinder has measurements etched to the sides so he can send accurate data on the water content to CoCoRaHS.

“Monday’s (March 31) storm had about 1/4 inch of water from the rain, sleet, hail and snow,” he said.

While people are saying this is the worst winter ever in Little Falls, and the long-est, Stencel has some data to back that up:

• March 1 tied a record cold high of -2 degrees set in 1962;

• March 2 tied a record low of -20 degrees set in 1972;

• March 2 tied a record cold high of 3 degrees set in 1943;

• March 3 set a new record low of -22 degrees. It was previously -21 degrees set in 1971;

• March 4 set a new record cold high of 7 degrees. The previous was 11 degrees in 1916;

• March 9 was the first 40 degree temperature since Feb. 18; and

• March 10 was the first 50 degree temperature since Nov. 13, 2013

“There were 23 days below normal temperatures in March, six days above normal and two normal,” said Stencel.

Stencel also recorded the number of days with zero or below overnight temperatures. December had 19 nights, January had 22 nights, February had 21 nights and March had six. That’s a total of 68 nights at zero or below in Little Falls.

As of March 31, Little falls saw 64.4 inches of snowfall since Oct. 1, when the snow season begins, as per the NWS. At least that was how much fell in Stencel’s yard.

For more information on becoming a volunteer, visit the website at www.co

corahs.org, email michelle.margraf@noaa.gov or call (952) 361-6708, the NWS in Chanhassen.

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