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Weather classes here Thursday

March 7, 2012

Think you have what it takes to be a storm spotter?

Area residents can find out Thursday night, as the National Weather Service will present its annual Skywarn class at 7 p.m. at the City Council Chambers — located at 307 E. Fourth St.

While the Crossroads area enjoyed a rather tame severe weather season last year, officials with the National Weather Service say the Boy Scout mantra is one to live by: Always be prepared.

“We had a pretty easy year last year,” Pat Vesper, warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS Midland office, said. “However, we have to be prepared for severe weather at all times. We live in an area of the state where the weather can become dangerous in the blink of an eye, and these SkyWarn classes give us a chance to train weather spotters, as well as offer training and advice for your average family. No matter who you are, knowing what to do in these types of severe weather situations is absolutely vital,” he added.

“We recently had 51 people turn out for the Snyder training and 42 attended the Seminole training. I am hoping that we will see a similar group in Big Spring on Thursday — composed of firefighters, law enforcement, amateur radio operators, other county/community stakeholders and the general public,” Vesper said.

“Big Spring has had a long tradition of outstanding service when it comes to protecting their citizens from the dangers of severe weather. I have personally been at Skywarn talks where we had 75 people and standing room only. I would love to see interest revived again this year,” he said.

According to Vesper, the class will include information on tracking and classifying storms and various weather conditions, but it’s not limited to emergency management officials and storm chasers.

“While the class is designed for storm chasers and those participating in the SkyWarn program, it has a lot to offer everyone,” said Vesper. “We offer a lot of information on safety during storms and bad weather that the average person can use to protect themselves and their family.

“Our main focus for these classes is safety. We’ll also look at super-cell thunderstorms and the type of weather that can arise out of them. We want our spotters prepared for the kinds of conditions they may see out in the field.”

According to local emergency response officials, the course will cover the most common sever weather situations for Howard County and the surrounding areas in hopes of preparing residents for the worst case scenario.

“It’s really a lot of good information for people to have,” said Big Spring Police Department Lt. Terry Chamness. “It gives people a basic knowledge of what severe weather is like in our area. Since we’re getting ready to head into the severe weather season, which begins in March and lasts until October, this is really important information to have. Spring time is when we really get a lot of the severe weather — things like hail and possible tornadoes.”

There’s no charge for the classes and the public is welcome. Those who sign up will receive a certificate from the National Weather Service. Those in law enforcement or emergency services can get credit for the class.

Vesper said the SkyWarn program — and, most importantly, the weather spotters who participate each year — are very important parts of the weather service's ability to accurately report and track the weather when severe conditions hit the area.

“We rely on the spotters greatly. They provide what we call 'ground truth,' which, when combined with the information we get from our radar and satellites, gives us the ability to provide better information to the public,” Vesper said. “Even if someone doesn’t want to become a spotter, I think these classes go a long way to prepare them and their families for a sever weather situation. We’re preparing for the storm season now, and we hope everyone else in the area will do so as well.”

For more information on the SkyWarn program and the National Weather Service, visit them online at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/skywarn/, or call 432-563-5006.

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