Storm spotters play important role in severe weather

The National Weather Service values their spotters during severe weather and have been working with them for quite some time.

Allen and Susan Syrcle of Griggsville, Ill. recently attended a severe weather spotter seminar in Pittsfield conducted by the NWS in St. Louis.

The Syrcles know that weather conditions can change quickly during severe weather season.

According to the Syrcles, "You can only go so much by what the weather service says, because they can't be where you're at. It can change in ten minutes or even five minutes and have a severe occurrence happen."

Each year, National Weather Service offices conduct storm spotter training seminars as severe weather season approaches.

Powerful thunderstorms develop in the Tri-States each spring. Meteorologists study these storms and identify the ones that are likely to become severe by tracking them using Doppler radar. However, more information is often needed to understand how the storms are actually behaving.

That's where severe storm spotters play a vital role.

"The Doppler radar is our primary detection tool, but it's like any other piece of equipment. It has limitations. So we can see certain features on the radar that tell us that something might be happening, but the bottom line is we don't know for sure until we get actual eyewitness reports ... what we call ground truth information," Jim Kramper, the Warning Coordinator Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in St. Louis said.

The National Weather Service values their spotters during severe weather and have been working with them for quite some time.

Meteorologist Kramper who conducts many spotter seminars added, "We started working with storm spotters probably back in the 1950s, and the program really took off probably in the 70s and 80s and it just kind of expanded ever since then."

NWS spotter manuals handed out at storm spotter seminars help severe storm spotters learn about important cloud features and storm structures.

Weather enthusiasts of all types like to learn more about how thunderstorms develop and why.

"It's always good to kind of know what to be looking for. That's why I like to catch these classes when I can. Get refreshed because you get kind of out of it after awhile," David McDonald with the Fire Department in Liberty, Ill. said.

Others can recall powerful storms that caused widespread damage thus fueling their interest in weather.

"Back in the mid 50s, we went through a rather severe, but small tornado. It took four chimneys off the brick house that we lived in, twisted off a six foot cottonwood tree in the front yard about fifty feet from the house," Allen Syrcle recalled.

Once trained, spotters understand how to do their spotting safely!

"Well I try to emphasize to people that this is not a storm chaser class, it's a storm spotter class," Meteorologist Kramper said. "We always preach safety as the number one rule. Keep yourself safe. Don't do anything unusual. You don't have to go out there and chase storms around. Sit in your living room and look out the window once in awhile that's fine with us. Safety is first, information is second."

And for most folks it's all about increasing their alertness during severe weather season.

The Syrcles just hope to "Be a little more aware of what's going on around us hopefully. Right."

Meteorologist Kramper will be conducting an upcoming storm spotter seminar this coming Monday, March 3rd in Quincy, Ill. at John Wood Community College in the auditorium.

KHQA and the 7 Storm Team will be hosting this event.

For more information on the seminar and how you could win a concrete storm shelter, click on this link here! ã??