May 2, 2002

Local Residents Get Weather Training As Storm Spotters

Firemen, law enforcement, ambulance service personnel and simple weather enthusiasts gathered in force at the Memphis Theatre to attend the National Weather Service (NWS) training session for field spotters. More than 80 people attended the two-hour training session April 29.

Jim Meyer was on hand from the Davenport, IA NWS office which serves a 32 county region in eastern Iowa, western Illinois and both Clark and Scotland counties in Missouri.

The obvious topic was spring troubles such as severe thunderstorms and tornadoes after similar stories broke across the nation just last weekend causing millions of dollars in damage and taking six lives. The program went beyond that to include winter storm information as well as flash flooding and wind squalls.

"Spotters save lives," Meyer said. "That's what it's all about. Timely and accurate reports from well trained and prepared spotters help us do our job and prevent needless deaths."

Meyer stated spotters should report tornadoes, funnel clouds, wall clouds, hail, wind gust of 40 mph or greater, heavy rainfall and snow depth. "never be afraid to call us with your local weather observations," Meyer said.

He stressed that safety is the top priority in following local weather events. The key to reporting such information is the communication process but added that video tape and photos of the weather events are very beneficial as well.

To report severe weather a spotter can call 1-800-803-9357. A local weather observation center can also be established for reports that will be forwarded to the NWS. Another commun-ication point can be the local law enforcement dispatcher.

Meyer said his 32 county region is no stranger to severe weather. Last year the district set a new record in Iowa with 103 tornadoes in the reporting area, 30 more tornadoes than had ever been recorded in the area.

What's the difference between Watch and Warning? Meyer said people often confuse the two most common terms used in severe weather reports.

A watch means severe weather is possible within the designated area and warns individuals to be alert.

A warning means severe weather has been reported or is imminent and for listeners to take the necessary precautions.

"Anytime the weather service uses the word 'warning' it means dangerous, life-threatening conditions are imminent or are already occurring and to take shelter immediately."

Meyer told the prospective weather spotters not to hibernate during the winter. The NWS is in need of regular winter weather reports, specifically when it starts snowing as well as regular updates for each inch of snow fallen. The biggest help spotters can offer is on freezing precipitation, which Meyer stated is very difficult to pick up on radar.

Meyer stated NWS offers a wonderful tool for the public to keep on track of weather issues. Each morning at 5:00 a.m. a Significant Weather Outlook report is issued if the NWS feels there is a significant threat of any dangerous weather. Individuals can view this on the NWS website or can even sign up for a daily email update at the site. Of course the information is also readily available via weather radio reports.

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