rain watching tools

Major rain over the last week, especially in the southeast. I was wondering what online tools everybody is using to watch the rain and plan your trips (besides the river gages - I think everybody knows about those)?

My old stand-by is the graphical representation of actual observed precipitation, which starts here:


It’s a “frames” type of site so you can’t give deeper links, but starting with the national one-day map which is the default, I typically change the period covered to 7 days and zoom in on a given state. Then I click “rivers” and “counties” to make it easier to identify the stream I’m assessing, and toggle back and forth between the 1-day and 7-day maps. The 7-day maps show best the overall conditions, while the 1-day number gives an idea of what isn’t yet reflected in the river gage reading.

What web sites do you use?

Intellacast. com…
for radar veiwing of the larger area.

Local TV stations “Dopplar” radar for smaller range picture.


my trips are multiweek and its bound to rain. Should a bad rain happen to make travel dangerous, I carry a satellite phone or SPOT to get extricated.

You can learn lots by watching the sky.

wow - 20 inches into the chattahoochee
Check out the 7-day rainfall totals in the southeast now - wide swaths have gotten over 5 inches, and isolated spots as much as 20 inches, such as over the chattahoochee. No wonder that river is 15 feet over flood stage.

modern technology
I generally think of rain-watching as a way to better plan day trips, to make the most of a limited time rain event and/or limited time off. However, you raise an interesting point in regard to using it as a long-term-tripping trouble-avoider.

IMO, as technology progresses, it becomes more the duty of the individual paddler to use available technology to stay out of trouble, where possible, than to rely on technology to summon help if they get into trouble. If we take your post at face value, you seem to be saying that your use of SPOT/satellite phone rescue technology makes it unnecessary for you to use other means to monitor weather conditions and stay out of trouble (although I doubt you really meant it like that).

However, we’re right on the verge of being able to conveniently call up web pages in the wild via PDAs and Smart Phones. Given that, and given a resource like the one I’ve linked, it should be possible to avoid being caught in a flash flood by simply monitoring a web site or two. Surely it’s better for both the individual and society as a whole, in terms of resources expended, for you to avoid being swept away in a flash flood, than for you to use your satellite phone to summon help after being washed away.

And while it’s true that there is much to be learned from watching the sky, one thing that you can’t learn is rainfall distribution across river basins. Look at the rainfall maps linked with the “rivers” features turned on - one stream might get 2 inches across most of its headwaters area, while another 20 miles away and right next to it might get 5-10 inches. It’s a purely random occurrence.

Just because the weatherman
predicts the rain, doesn’t mean that rain is predictable. This is especially true in the summer when pop up showers can occur almost anytime during the day.

Beyond a couple of days, I don’t trust their forecasts.


Here is a predictive tool I use
This was created by someone in our local paddle club using NOAA data. I think it is only oriented toward the Eastern US though.

I really like it because it tells you what rainfall is possible, using real-time NOAA forecasting. It tends to overpredict rainfall to some extent, because it shows possible front coverage.


Absolutely not
I dont trust technology. I take month long solo trips in the boreal forest and have found that a) there is no weather radio, cell phone service or Blackberry service. Nor TV etc.

And dead batteries are not my friend. I dont use weather forecasts because there ARE NO forecasts for that big an area that are meaningful.

The Sat phone and SPOT/PLB are the only devices that can get you as a soloist out of trouble but sure its your responsibility over a month to not get yourself in trouble.

And understanding your topo map and watershed drainage are also key to not getting washed away.

IMO electronics are distancing paddlers from understanding their environment. No longer do we live outdoors…we just visit.

My predictions over a month in Wabakimi and Woodland Caribou were pretty well spot on without any sort of electronic advice.

for me, it’s having a good understanding

– Last Updated: Sep-24-09 3:59 PM EST –

...... of the river levels in which I would be paddling in .

Not simply the current guage , because that's only a part of the picture .

What I don't want , is to be caught off guard or surprised by fast rising waters and only have the option of getting out in the middle of nowhere's ville ... prefer to make a "planned" destination landing (although that could be any place that looks good as night approaches in the mountain) , but still want it to be my choice , not forced to exit the river !!

The 7 day rainfall over a region , and specific areas of that region , gives a closer look at the ground saturation , which has big bunches of stuff to do with river / stream swelling . Also excessively dry ground can have similar effects on run-off .

So for me , it's basically have the info. on the "current" ground conditions , relate that to recent rain events , and have good understanding of what more rain and how much it takes to become a river rise event that would put me to the caution or higher stage .

This is a very reliable and trustworthy combination to predict river / stream rises and be better prepaired in decision making .

It is not unusual but rather to be expected that the river will rise ... 10' to 16' in twelve hr. period is common in a few stretches I'm thinking of .

ps., ... did I mention I'd like to see my favorite river areas rise some at present ... they are on the low side again .

Advanced Hydrological Prediction
A NWS tool that forecasts river levels based on the forecast rainfall.


oops, I forgot to add …
… you need to scroll down to see the next two days

that is a real good link too mintjulep
… once on the page you’ve offered , you can surf around to a lot of other interesting and related info. also .

I was just doing that and it was brought back to memory that this is the 10th anniversary of hurricane Floyd (landfall Sept. 16 , 99) …