Kelsey Angle, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service, says there are already hundreds of active trained spotters statewide but more are always needed.
“Storm spotter training is free and open to the public,” Angle says. “Each class lasts around an hour-and-a-half. We certainly encourage anybody who has an interest in the weather and providing information to the National Weather Service through the upcoming storm season to attend a class.”
While being a spotter is a volunteer position, there is a certain obligation or duty that comes with taking on the role.
“If severe weather is to strike their location, that they take a few moments to provide that information and report to the National Weather Service,” Angle says. “That information certainly aids in warning decisions and it’s also information that we’ll thread into our warnings and statements that will further warn people downstream of a particular storm.”
While the weather service has all sorts of radar and other technologies to help in forecasting, he says there’s no substitute for having a trained spotter report in about what they see happening.
“It’s important to have eyes and ears in the field providing us real-time reports as severe weather is occurring across the state,” Angle says. “This information supplements the information that we receive and provides ultimately a better warning and information to the public that we serve.”
There’s no minimum age to become a spotter and the training is comprehensive.
“We’ll provide information and lots of pictures as well as video to help aid in the identification and the differences between a funnel cloud, a wall cloud and a tornado, how to measure hail size,” Angle says. “We’ll take a look at the various strengths of wind and the damage that causes.”
The free spotter courses start tomorrow night in Thomas County at the Thedford fire hall and continue in dozens of communities statewide through April. To find one near you, visit www.weather.gov.