March 23, 2006

National Weather Service To Host Storm-Spotter Training in Memphis

Severe weather is always a threat in this region. Just ask the folks of Monroe City, just some 75 miles southeast of Memphis, where an F-4 class tornado caused millions of dollars in damage to a town similar to our own.

Fortunately there were no fatalities. While the region never will escape the threat of severe weather, local volunteers are being called upon to continue to insure that we all live to tell about the storm.

The National Weather Service relies on trained volunteers to supplement Doppler radar information when severe storms and tornadoes threaten.

These dedicated individuals volunteer their time to learn about and detect severe weather. Their valuable cooperation is important in the warning process. Weather reports from trained spotters are used along with Doppler radar data to issue warnings of tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and flash floods.

Area residents interested in becoming a storm spotter can attend special training in Memphis on March 29th. The NOAA National Weather Service in conjunction with the Scotland County Sheriffs Department and area EMS providers, will be hosting a severe weather storm-spotter training course at the Memphis Theatre beginning at 6:30 p.m. The approximately two-hour long course is free and open to the public and is not limited to storm spotter volunteers. Anyone interested in learning more about severe weather is welcome to attend.

The NWS stresses the value of real-time reports, which are critical in issuing warnings and saving lives. Thats an indisputable fact. Spotters provide this real-time ground-truth of local conditions (hail size, wind speed, tornado development, storm structure, and local damage) to help warn the public. Even as new technology allows the Weather Service to issue warnings with more lead-time, spotters will always serve as a key link between radar indications of severe weather and whats happening on the ground.

Storm spotters are volunteers. Most are just regular folks, some with an avid interest in the weather and many without. Some are law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS or Emergency Management personnel. The common link is that all share a sense of responsibility to their neighbors.

The National Weather Service trains spotter groups. However, spotter group organization is left to the local Emergency Management Director, or the police or fire department. Anyone interested in becoming a spotter should first check with these agencies to determine who serves as spotters in your area.

Virtually every community has some form of spotter network. Often, local fire and police department personnel are trained to observe and report severe weather. Local Emergency Management Agencies also train and deploy spotters. The existence of easy 2-way radio communication and 24-hour operations are two reasons why these groups make effective spotters.

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