National Weather Service trains storm spotters in Stillwater

Dozens of storm spotters and emergency management personnel took part in a training class Tuesday night with the National Weather Service. (FILE)

Spring tornado season is right around the corner, and the National Weather Service is gearing up by getting more eyes on the ground. The NWS held a storm spotter training in Stillwater Tuesday night to help people identify severe weather.

Dozens of storm spotters and emergency management personnel spent the evening learning about things like cloud features, straight line winds, and tornadoes.

The NWS says trained storm spotters are invaluable in the warning process. Meteorologists can see the storm on the radar, but not on the ground, so they need spotters to tell them what's happening in the field. Spotters can observe hail, flooding, or tornadoes and report what they're seeing to the weather service, which can sometimes lead meteorologists to adjust their warnings or watches.

Some basic tips for spotters from the NWS:

  • Always position yourself in a safe place to watch the storm
  • Observe where the storm is moving and plan an escape route
  • If you see flooding on the road - turn around, don't drown
  • Study the difference between wall clouds, funnel clouds, and tornadoes
  • Only spot at night if you're an experienced spotter and working in a team
  • If you don't feel safe, go home

Storm spotting is not storm chasing, and safety is always the top priority.

"A lot of folks see storm chasing on TV," said Jonathan Kurtz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "They think it’s glamorous, a lot of fun, and an adrenaline rush. That’s not what storm spotter training is. My job is to help teach these people how to be really safe out there. They don’t even have to go out in their car to be a spotter, they can stay at home and just report to us what happens in their own neighborhood."

You can report your observations to the NWS by calling 405.325.3816. Identify yourself as a spotter and saw what you saw, along with when and where you saw it.

If you'd like more information about the training program, click here.

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