National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, CoCoRaHS, and the Virtual Border Conference

EL PASO, Texas - Severe Weather Preparedness Week kicked off March 3 and lasts until March 9.

The week is acknowledged each year by the National Weather Service in order to bring awareness to the importance of severe weather preparation.

The week focuses on preparing residents across the United States for severe weather that may strike in their region, and planning how to handle those events.

The El Paso National Weather Service said the week is no less important here in the Borderland.

While the Borderland does not experience tornadoes, heavy hail, flash flooding, and high winds are all threats.

Following the region's "windy season," hail may strike in the months of April and May, NWS meteorologist John Fausett said.

According to Fausett, the worst weather hits during the monsoon, which begins in mid-June.

Another important aspect to the week is weather watching and reporting from residents around the U.S.

One way people are asked to assist the National Weather Service is through the CoCoRaHS network, or Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network.

The NWS calls the month "March Madness." According to Fausett, it is a month during which NWS offices across the nation compete to add the most new spotters to their territories.

ABC-7 covered the El Paso office's lack of CoCoRaHS volunteers in September, when Dona Ana County outnumbered El Paso's volunteers 5-to-1.

Since that report, NWS meteorologist Mike Hardiman said that number has grown.

There are now between 30 to 35 active network reporters.

Still, Hardiman said he would like that number to jump to 50 before the monsoon.

Also happening at the El Paso NWS office is the second Virtual Border Conference.

On Wednesday the office hosted a webinar that invited weather communicators from U.S. border city weather offices, as well as weather data organizations in Mexico.

The webinar lasted around seven hours. According to Fausett, topics such as issuing weather watches and warnings in Mexico and gathering more weather data across the border were covered.

Currently, the NWS does not issue watches and warnings to Mexico. There is also limited Mexico weather data available to meteorologists in the U.S.

The first Virtual Border Conference was created in 2011, and headed by the El Paso NWS.

High demand for continued work on border relations led to the 2013 conference.

Fausett said while a lot of work is left to be done, the communication between Mexico and border cities has gotten better recently.

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