VIDEO REPORT: Severe Weather Spotter Classes

By: Britni McDonald
By: Britni McDonald

Posted Monday, March 4, 2013 --- 5:40 p.m.

The National Weather Service teamed up with Midwest Severe Storm Tracking Response Center and the Dane County Emergency Management Team to teach dozens about storm structure, what to report and how to report it.

"They're the eyes and ears of the Doppler radar system on the ground," said Rusty Kapela with the National Weather Service.

He's talking about severe weather spotters-- those who spot storms from the ground and alert weather services so they can alert us.

"They can be able to recognize storm structure, know ahead of time, and be better able to predict it themselves for their families or in their community," said Midwest Severe Storm Tracking Response Center's CEO and President, Dale Bernstein.

Spotters can be anyone in the community.

"We've had spotters 12, 13, 14 years old," said Kapela.

An attendee of the class, Scott McGuigan said, "The thrill of spotting a tornado and help in public safety. The goal of this group is to teach people what to look for so they can report to give people notice before storms hit."

Weather services and emergency teams issue warnings based on spotter reports.

"When we get good spotter reports, it increases our confidence to issue warnings," said Kapela. "Doppler levels can only tell us so much. They can't see below cloud base. We think we might know what's going on at the ground level, but we don't know for sure, so this is where the spotters come into play."

Warnings like the one issued this morning, except that one was an accident, meant to be a test while the National Weather Service preps for their tornado warning drill in April.

"That was an oops, a mistake on our part," said Kapela. "We found out we were in the wrong mode, and it went out as a real tornado warning. We immediately canceled it one minute later."

It was a mistake that at least proved the extent these warnings reach.

"Now that we have radio; we have internet capability, satellite capability," said Bernstein, "That information is almost instantaneous. We can get info to our networks in about 40 to 90 seconds, so that's pretty fast."

Weather Spotter "Webinars" will also be provided as scheduled:
- April 3 at 6:30-8:30 a.m. (basic)
- April 4 at 6:30-8:30 a.m. (advanced) & 1:00-3:00 p.m. (basic)
- April 8 at 6:30-8:30 a.m. (advanced) & 1:00-3:00 p.m. (basic)
- April 9 at 6:30-8:30 a.m. (basic)

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