By Devese “Dee” Ursery
Tornadoes, lightning and thunderstorms cause hundreds of injuries and deaths and billions in property and crop damages. One way to help your community is by becoming a volunteer storm spotter.
The U.S. National Weather Service in St. Louis, with the help of the Collinsville Fire Department, will host a storm spotter class on Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Gateway Convention Center. Forecasters from NWS will be teaching the classes.
The NWS storm spotter classes started in mid January and they will continue in different locations around the region through to early April.
The in-person classes are free and open to the public and don’t require any registration. There are virtual classes for those who cannot attend in-person but you need to register for those.
To register individuals need to go to meted.ucar.edu/training_course, take two courses – Role of a Skywarn Spotter and Skywarn Spotter Convective Basics. You may be required to login, but it’s free.
Once the sessions are completed, send certificates of completion to the appropriate NWS forecast office. The list can be found on the NWS website, weather.gov. After your certificates are received NWS will contact you for additional information and to issue storm spotter credentials.
Kevin Deitsch, NWS forecaster for St. Louis explained that the intent of the storm spotter classes is to train people to observe the severe weather from ground level.
“We train them to be our eyes on the ground and then train them to give us the information when we need it,” Deitsch said. “We can then turn and use that information to put out warnings.”
Deitsch stated that the classes are collectively advantageous for both NWS and the community at large. It helps NWS by having trained severe weather spotters at ground level to give them ground-truth of what’s going on on
Although NWS has access to data from tools like Doppler radar, satellite and surface weather stations, technology cannot detect every instance of hazardous weather. Storm spotters fill in the gaps by reporting severe weather that is impacting their area. Those reports in turn help forecasters issue timely, accurate and detailed warnings by confirming hazardous weather detected by NWS radar.
The storm spotter class is a one-time two-hour class that offers people an opportunity to become volunteer storm spotters or understand more about severe weather. The training gives an individual the tools to become a severe storm spotter by teaching thunderstorm development, storm structure and what features to look for and where to find them. What and how to report information to NWS and basic severe weather safety are also covered in the training.
Chief John Bailot, Collinsville Fire Department stated that storm spotter classes are important and really beneficial for residents. He is encouraging anyone that can to get the spotter training because with more trained people on the ground to observe severe weather, the warning can get out quicker.
“The more people that we can get trained as spotters the safer people can be in general,” Bailot said. “The spotter can notify dispatch, if they happen to see a funnel cloud or any severe weather indicators.”