Learn to spot summer storms at free weather spotter class
by Steve Schulz, Editor When clouds envelop the sky over Wadena County and a storm alert is issued by the National Weather Service, some volunteers' jobs are just beginning. The NWS relies on local weather spotters to be its eyes, since radar sys...
by Steve Schulz,
When clouds envelop the sky over Wadena County and a storm alert is issued by the National Weather Service, some volunteers' jobs are just beginning.
The NWS relies on local weather spotters to be its eyes, since radar systems like Doppler are only a piece of the puzzle, said Wadena County Director of Emergency Management Services Scott McKellep.
"The weather service really does rely on human spotters," he said. "They're seeing the top of the storm, not what's happening on the ground."
McKellep estimated there are 25-30 local weather spotters now, many of them police and fire fighters, amateur radio enthusiasts, or just people fascinated by the weather. Those numbers are likely to grow a lot next month when a class put on by the National Weather Service trains a new batch of spotters.
McKellep said from the moment he announced the class, he had people signing up, and already had a dozen volunteer spotters for a class that will likely be limited to 30.
The spotters are taught about cloud formations and powerful storms at the class. In the event of a monster thunderstorm, they'll be "activated" by the NWS, and report their information directly to the weather service, McKellep said.
"It basically teaches them recognition of thunderstorm development, the paths they take, and how to recognize certain types of thunderstorms and how they develop tornadoes," he said.
McKellep pointed to the loss of human life in recent years in St. Peter and Rogers, where tornadoes struck. He said the NWS does a great job of predicting inclement weather, and spotters are playing a role in improving data flow, but some storms form so quickly, they can't be communicated in time to prevent tragedy. Mother Nature is sometimes still a step ahead.
The SkyWarn Weather Spotter Course will be offered from 6:30-9:15 p.m. Thursday, May 3, at Room M33 at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Wadena. McKellep said the class is free, but filling up quickly, so he requested people register by calling (218) 631-7795 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org (include your name and return phone number.)
Anyone from Wadena County is welcome, or from areas west of Wadena County, which could serve as an early warning system as most severe storms move in from the west.