Answer Man: What gives with the rain gauge?

News-DemocratJune 7, 2013 

Q. We often wonder if Lambert Airport is in some odd meteorological zone that only gets a fraction of the rain that we measure in our gauge in Swansea. For example, after the storm on May 31, we had at least 4 inches in our gauge, which was overflowing. Yet the June 1st BND showed .16 of an inch for the 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. Friday and 22.56 inches year to date. Even more mysterious, the June 2nd BND showed .26 inch for the 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. Saturday but the year to date was 24.40 inches! When I add .26 to 22.56, I get 22.82. What gives? -- LKM, of Swansea

A. It looks to me like we should send whoever is trying to explain our paper's rain statistics to the showers. After studying the actual figures from the National Weather Service (NWS), I found those two sentences under our precipitation totals to be as cloudy as the storms that roared through our area last weekend.

As you know, the explanation starts by saying the precipitation is for a "24-hour period ending yesterday." Then, it says the statistics are "for St. Louis through 4 p.m. yesterday." Put those two sentences together and you may assume that the totals run from 4 p.m. one day to 4 p.m. the next.

To borrow that classic line from "Cool Hand Luke," what we have here is failure to communicate. Even if you add our totals from June 1 and June 2 (presumably 4 p.m. May 30 to 4 p.m. June 1) you'd come up with less than a half inch of rain. But anyone who watched the rain come down in buckets on May 31 would say, "That's nuts!" -- and they'd be right.

If you check the official NWS statistics, you'd find that we set an all-time daily record of 1.74 inches from midnight to midnight on May 31 in St. Louis before adding another .26 inch on June 1 for a total of exactly 2 inches.

And, the NWS totals for the year accurately reflect those daily totals. As of 11:59 p.m. May 30, we had 22.40 inches, which grew to 24.14 at 11:59 on May 31 and 24.40 at 11:59 on June 1. Likewise, you never saw it in our paper's daily totals, but we received .05 inch between 4 p.m. and midnight Wednesday, bringing our total to date to 24.45.

So despite what it implies, our daily totals are from midnight to 4 p.m. the previous day and our year-to-date totals are as of 4 p.m. the previous day as well. That's why our yearly total on June 1 was 22.56, because it only added the .16 inch from midnight to 4 p.m. on May 31.

You saw the big jump on June 2 because the daily number didn't reflect the torrential rain that hit from 4 p.m. to midnight on May 31. Still confused? Try www.wunderground.com and check out the comprehensive midnight-to-midnight statistical history by punching up St. Louis and clicking on "Today's Almanac."

Numbers game: I should have known that my recent answer about naval service numbers would bring exceptions to the rule.

Terry Hentze, of Belleville, said he was sworn in at Sportman's Park in 1956 and, after the Cardinals game, boarded a train to the Great Lakes Training Center; his number started with 487. Retired Master Chief Petty Officer Dave Arnold, of O'Fallon, enlisted in 1958 with a number starting with 530.

My answer, however, dealt specifically with a man who enlisted just before World War II. At that time St. Louis recruiters had been given a block of numbers between 3358001 and 3410000, I was told by Tim Nenninger at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C.

But in 1948, the Navy did a survey of service numbers and found that nearly 2 million numbers were still unused, William Seibert at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis said. So, before going to eight-digit numbers, the Navy decided to use all of those unused seven-digit numbers.

Apparently, there was no rhyme or reason how these were handed out, so those numbers in the '50s meant nothing other than a personal identifier. Still other numbers from retired personnel were reportedly reused even though they weren't supposed to be.

A new series starting with B was launched in 1965 followed by a D series in 1969. In 1972 the whole system was scrapped in favor of using Social Security numbers.

'Ring' of truth?: Beverly Imming, of O'Fallon, was kind enough to call and say that the movie "Ring of Fire" with Jewel as June Carter Cash will be repeated at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Sunday on Lifetime -- and our TV Week magazine agrees.

But the Lifetime website shows no such listing and the network folks in New York told me Friday that no repeats are scheduled. However, you might want to check it out just in case if you're interested.

Today's trivia

How many pentagon-shaped pieces are on a soccer ball?

Answer to Thursday's trivia: The only St. Louis Cardinal to lead the National League in complete games two years in a row was Dizzy Dean -- 29 in 1935 and 28 in 1936. But that was nothing compared to Milwaukee's Warren Spahn, who either led or tied for the NL lead from 1957 through 1963, during which time he threw 145 complete games.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 239-2465.

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