By Chris Spears

DENVER (CBS4) – The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, better known as CoCoRaHS, is celebrating 20 years of collecting rain, hail and snow data to monitor climate.

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The idea for CoCoRaHS was founded in late 1997 by Nolan Doesken, former State Climatologist of Colorado. The first rainfall data was collected shortly thereafter on June 17, 1998, in Larimer County.

A flash flood hit on 7/28/1997 along Spring Creek in Fort Collins(credit CBS)

Doesken saw the need for a network of rain data to fill gaps in between ‘official’ weather stations, after a highly localized storm hit parts of Fort Collins on July 28, 1997, producing a killer flash flood along Spring Creek.

(credit: CoCoRaHS)

It didn’t take long for the grassroots effort to expand south into Denver and eventually to the rest of Colorado as volunteers purchased rain gauges and signed up to report precipitation.

After the statewide expansion CoCoRaHS proved to be extremely important for documenting Colorado’s highly varied climate.

Volunteers documented several significant weather events of the early 2000s, including a major drought and the Blizzard of March 2003.

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Rainfall reports along the Front Range from the CoCoRaHS network, for the 24-hour period ending at 7 a.m. on May 8, 2014.

CoCoRaHS operates out of the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and today observers provide thousands of daily reports from all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

It is sustained by donations from the community, businesses and other organizations.

To celebrate turning 20 CoCoRaHS leaders are looking for new volunteers to measure rain, hail and snow.

If you’re interested you can join by filling out this short application form.

CoCoRaHS is also currently hosting a ’20 For CoCoRaHS’ fundraiser to celebrate their 20th birthday.

Donations can be made here.

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Meteorologist Chris Spears travels weekly in the CBS4 Mobile Weather Lab reporting about Colorado’s weather and climate. Check out his bio, connect with him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @ChrisCBS4.