OHIO VALLEY — With sights of the recent storms still vividly etched on the minds of most residents, now is the perfect time to sign up for the upcoming weather spotter class, according to Matt Gregg of the Mason County Office of Emergency Services.
The SKYWARN class will be taught by representatives from the National Weather Service (NWS) on March 15 at 5:30 p.m. Hosted by the Mason County Amateur Radio Group and Amateur Radio Emergency Services, of which Gregg is a member, it will be held at the Mason County 911 center in Point Pleasant.
According to the NWS website, SKYWARN is a volunteer program with between 350,000 and 400,000 trained severe weather spotters. They help keep their local community safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the NWS.
Lasting approximately 90 minutes, the class is free of charge. Participants will learn the basics of thunderstorm development, fundamentals of storm structure, identifying potential severe weather features, information to report, how to report information, and basic severe weather safety.
Gregg said the recent storm is the perfect example of why it is important to take the class. A tornado was falsely reported in Mason County. Gregg said while a funnel cloud was seen, it is not considered an actual tornado until it hits the ground. Reporting weather conditions with the proper terminology can get the right resources to the right emergency, he added.
Having people trained to correctly identify weather situations means getting that information to residents in time to prepare. Gregg said “Code Red” is a service available to residents of Mason County to alert them to potential severe weather conditions. And, he stated, residents should be prepared and able to be self-sufficient for at least 48 to 72 hours in case power and phone service is lost.
“As crazy as the weather has been lately, we just don’t know from day-to-day,” Gregg said.
While the class is open to all, it is very important for first responders and amateur radio operators, according to Gregg. He said even if phone and electrical services are out, ham radio operators still have communication. The NWS has radios in their offices and can still receive reports.
Since the program started in the 1970s, the information provided by the SKYWARN spotters, coupled with Doppler radar technology, improved satellite and other data, has enabled the NWS to issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and flash floods, according to its website. The information provides extra time that can help save lives.
Those wishing to take the class are asked to register by calling 304-675-9911 or e-mailing Gregg at [email protected]
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who can be reached at [email protected]