ALP water treatment plant gets award from National Weather Service – Alexandria Echo Press

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ALEXANDRIA — Every 15 minutes, all year round, the ALP Utilities water treatment plant provides data to the National Weather Service.
Workers at the plant recently received an Honored Institution Award for their efforts, which stretch back 50 years.
According to Michelle Margraf, meteorologist and Observing Program Leader for the National Weather Service Twin Cities, which is based in Chanhassen , the water treatment plant has hosted a National Weather Service Fischer Porter rain gauge on site since Sept. 1, 1971.
The gauge, said Margraf, measures precipitation accumulation at 15-minute increments. She explained that it weighs the precipitation, so it can measure the amount of liquid in the precipitation, regardless if it is rain, sleet or snow.
Dave Thelen, water treatment plant operator, is the current precipitation observer at the plant and was the person who accepted the award.
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Thelen said he has been the observer for the past five years, which is when he moved to Alexandria and started working at ALP Utilities. Previously, he worked in Benson and was also a precipitation observer there, he said.
Nowadays, he said the job is fairly simple. He takes a flash drive from the Fischer Porter rain gauge and plugs it into a computer where he then uploads the data to the National Weather Service.
Margraf said observers, like Thelen, download a month’s worth of data at the beginning of each month to send to her office so it can be archived at the National Center for Environmental Information. The information, she said, is used by scientists, water resource managers, government agencies and anyone who needs precipitation data in hourly increments in the Alexandria area.
“The data is also used to calculate average rainfall rates for the region,” said Margraf. “And with determining the frequency of heavy rainfall events for use with infrastructure planning.”
The staff at the Alexandria water treatment plant have been providing monthly measurements to the National Weather Service since Sept. 1, 1971, as part of the Cooperative Weather Observer network .
“We are grateful to partner with the City of Alexandria on the precipitation record for the area,” said Margraf.
Thelen said the information he provides to the National Weather Service is a resource that is always needed. And he said it is so much easier now that it has become modernized and digital. He remembers when he would have to take the snow from the gauge and melt it down to determine the amount of precipitation in the winter months.
“Now, I just collect whatever information is on that little smart box, download the data to my computer and then send it off,” said Thelen. He believes the information includes temperature, humidity, precipitation and barometer readings.
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