As the Crossroads area begins to get into the heart of the severe weather season, area residents will get a chance to educate themselves — as well as become storm spotter — as the National Weather Service presents its annual SkyWarn class Thursday.
Set for 7 p.m. in the Big Spring City Council Chambers — located at 307 E. Fourth St., adjacent to City Hall — the class offers residents a plethora of information on storm situations and how to handle them.
“While the class is designed for storm chasers and those participating in the SkyWarn program, it has a lot to offer everyone,” Pat Vesper, warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS Midland office, said. “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.”
Vesper said last year's storm season was fairly mild, however, the weather can quickly take a turn for the worst in the West Texas area.
“We had a pretty easy year last year,” Vesper 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.”
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.”
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 Fire Department Chief Craig Ferguson. “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 definitely welcome to attend. Those who sign up for the class will receive a certificate from the National Weather Service, and if you’re in law enforcement or emergency services, you can get credit for it. It’s excellent training for anyone to have.”
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.