Locals learn to spot storms

Published 11:52 pm Thursday, June 5, 2008

NATCHEZ — Almost everyone is familiar with the thunderstorms that pop up sporadically throughout the hot summer months.

The National Weather Service’s forecaster, Ashley Wester, said those storms can be dangerous and she wants people to know how to look for them before they crop up.

And on Thursday night she trained a new batch of storm spotters, in a class sponsored by the NWS, to learn how to spot thunderstorms and other weather features that my pose a threat.

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The class is meant to train individuals to recognize potentially harmful weather patters and report them to the NWS.

“They’ll be a trained spotter in our eyes,” she said of the class’s attendees. “We talk a lot about features and what to look for.”

Wester said the NWS hosts such classes from October to the beginning of summer.

Local first responders and even some safety conscious residents attended Thursday’s class at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Everard and Janice Baker came from Janette’s Crossing to attend the class.

Janice said they learned about the class at their local neighborhood watch meeting.

“We want to know what’s going on,” she said.

Everard said since he and his wife live so far out in the county they would be in a good position to alert the Weather Service of impending bad weather.

And that’s exactly what Wester said the NWS wants.

Wester said trained spotters can help forecasters adjust weather advisories and act as sources of “ground truth.”

Wester said since those reading the radar screen cannot see what’s actually happening outside, spotters are extremely valuable.

“They can help us do our jobs better,” she said.

In addition, Wester said when a spotter’s information can be added to a weather warning, those receiving the weather warning are more apt to heed the advisory.

And while Wester said the information spotters provide is valuable, it must be gathered with safety in mind.

“We don’t want people going out chasing storms,’’ she said.

Adams County Civil Defense Director, Stan Owens, said he hoped the class would ultimately save lives in the event of a weather emergency.

“If one person can see what’s coming and help, that’s great,” he said. “But we want them to do it safely.”