Mark Twain once said “everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it,” but Highland County residents can take a free course Wednesday, Feb. 5 to do something that protects life and property by becoming an official weather spotter for the National Weather Service.
The weather spotter training course will be held in the basement meeting room of the Highland County Administration Building, located behind the courthouse on Governor Foraker Place in Hillsboro, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5.
Highland County Emergency Management Agency Director David Bushelman said once the class is completed, those taking the course will be considered an officially trained spotter qualified to report severe weather to the Wilmington National Weather Service office.
“The class lasts about an hour and a half to two hours,” Bushelman said. “It’ll be led by a National Weather Service meteorologist who will discuss techniques and safety for weather spotting.”
A spokesman for the Wilmington NWS office said that meteorologist Jeff Sites would be teaching the Wednesday night class.
The role of a weather spotter differs from that of a cooperative weather observer, which was the position held by the late Tom and Marie Knott, a local couple who documented daily weather data for a number of years for both the local media and the weather service.
Meteorologist Steve Hrebenach told The Times-Gazette a weather spotter mainly reports ground level observations that radar can’t see.
“It’s describing some of the things you might see when observing outside compared with what we’re seeing on radar,” he said. “The types of things that would be interesting to us that we wouldn’t necessarily see on radar could be potential signs of severe weather.”
He said that for all of its high technology, modern day Doppler radar, such as that used at the Wilmington facility, can only see so much as it travels in a straight line from the radome located outside of the city to the horizon.
Due to that “line-of-sight” characteristic, Hrebenach said, it can be difficult for forecasters to see what’s going on below the clouds and closer to the surface, which is where the spotter comes in.
“Having spotters who can give us reports of what they’re seeing based upon their training can help us make the decision as to whether we need to issue storm warnings or not,” he said.
Real-time ground observations of tornadoes, hail, wind and cloud formations, he said, provide a reliable information base for severe weather detection and verification.
Hrebenach said participants in the Wednesday night class will be re-acquainted with many things that they probably learned in middle school regarding the weather, such as the different types of clouds, wind velocity, rainfall amounts and the size of hail.
“It’s all about how to make useful reports and observations that would help us to issue warnings to protect life and property,” he said.
There is no special equipment required to be a weather spotter, Hrebenach said, only the observations one would make as a result of what was taught in the classroom.
To register for the course, which Bushelman said is limited to 60 participants, contact the Highland County EMA via email at email@example.com or call 937-393-5880.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.