If you’ve ever looked at a National Weather Service watch, warning or advisory, you’ll likely see a note at the end about about “spotter activity.”
In fact, if you search the National Weather Service webpage for Kane County, IL, (good old Lat: 41.9°N Lon: 88.25°W Elev: 758ft.) right now, at 8:32 a.m. Monday, March 2, 2015, you’ll see we’ve got a Hazardous Weather Outlook, and sure enough, at the end it says:
“SPOTTER INFORMATION STATEMENT … SPOTTER ACTIVATION WILL NOT BE NECESSARY THROUGH TONIGHT.”
So, you may ask yourself, who are these guys? What do they do, exactly? And maybe: How can I be one?
The answer to the last question is simple: Each year, the Kane County Office of Emergency Management sponsors Severe Weather Spotter training, which is conducted by a member of the local NWS forecast office, for local residents and first responders. And the next opportunity to take the class is coming up on March 11.
By way of background, Kane County is one of the leaders in the National Weather Service program. In 2000, Kane County became the first county in the state of Illinois to receive the National Weather Service’s StormReady certification. StormReady is a nationwide program that helps communities better protect their residents during severe weather events, from floods to tornadoes. The program encourages communities to take a proactive approach to improving local hazardous weather operations.
Community weather spotters are a vital link in the timely and accurate flow of severe weather information to the Romeoville NWS forecast office, which issues thunderstorm and tornado watches and warnings for our area.
The Office of Emergency Management has partnered with Elgin Community College to provide this year’s spotter training to our communities. The class will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, at at Elgin Community College’s Seigel Auditorium.
This is a free, first-come, first-seated class, so get there early and learn what causes severe thunderstorms and tornadoes and how to look for the warning signs.
The SKYWARN Storm Spotter Program was created by the National Weather Service to improve warning services. The NWS needs real-time reports of hail size, wind damage, flash flooding, heavy rain, tornadoes, and waterspouts to effectively warn the public of severe weather. Even as new technology allows the NWS to issue warnings with more lead time, spotters will always be needed as links between radar indications of severe weather and ground truth. Storm Spotter volunteers serve as severe weather spotters for the NWS and local emergency management programs, and generally have two things in common — an interest in the weather and a desire to serve their community.