By Sydney Yalshevec
Reporter 

Storm Spotters hold meeting in Kimball

 


The US National Weather Service (USNWS) recently had two forecasters from the Cheyenne, WY, location come to Kimball in order to teach a brief class in what it takes to be a spotter. They talked about the need for storm spotters and how even though they do have advanced weather predicting equipment, there’s nothing like a report from someone watching the storm clouds develop right before their eyes.

Rob Cox, Science Operations Officer, and Steve Rubin, Forecaster, have both been involved with weather prediction for many years. It has taken them to different places such as Texas and Kansas.

“It’s not really a career where you know exactly where you’ll end up. You go in for available positions. It’s usually where the storms are,” Cox said.

A forecaster’s job involves knowing how to read a lot of different equipment that takes measurements of the storm, such as doppler radar. This equipment allows them to see how an upcoming storm is going to act it also allows them to take readings after the storm. They can determine rainfall or snow fall amounts and other storm data. However, as accurate as it can be, sometimes it just isn’t enough.

“Even doppler radar isn’t one hundred percent accurate. Over at our office in Cheyenne, we have about five minutes between readings, and a lot can develop in a storm during that time period. That’s why we need eyes, spotters, on the ground,” Cox said.

Cox and Rubin’s purpose for being in Kimball was for a spotter training class. It was held on Thursday, February 27, at 6:30 p.m., in the fire hall.

The class’ program entailed how to identify different types of storm clouds and what each of those types of storms meant. Cox explained how tracking cloud shape and movement can be helpful.

“The doppler radar tracks storms at an angle. Close up to the doppler we have trouble seeing the higher up storms and farther away the lower storms. Spotters can call in and tell us, ‘I see a funnel cloud taking shape it could be a tornado,’” Cox said.

Cox also encouraged anyone who is spotting to express uncertainty when it arises since sometimes clouds can be tricky to read. This happens a lot when spotting from far away and buildings, trees, or mountains get in the way of being able to see.

“We’d rather you say you’re not sure than try to be one hundred percent in a fifty-percent situation,” Cox said.

Some people think that, in order to close the gap on uncertainty, storm chasing is a viable option. Storm chasing involves driving out to track a storm and following it as it develops. The downside to this is that many storm chasers get caught in the storms they’re chasing and suffer injuries, vehicle damage, and sometimes death.


“We do not condone storm chasing. We don’t need a report that badly. We’d rather you be safe. However, if you do decide to go storm chasing, take precautions,” Cox said.

Storm chasing is dangerous and if chasing one would want to make sure that an escape route is always open. In this area there aren’t many routes available, and thus, chasing is discouraged. However, one point Cox did stress was that if a tornado looks stationary, there is a good chance it is headed straight for the person viewing it as stationary.

“Safety is very important to us and we want everyone to take in to account safety first,” Cox said.

Cox warned against driving into roads covered in water during a flash flood. It only takes two feet of water to pick a car up and carry it away. If for some reason a person finds themselves in a car with high winds headed toward them, they would want to point their car toward the wind or away from. They would not want to situate their car with the side faring the winds. This type of situating could cause the car to roll.

After the course was completed and Cox reviewed the information covered in a short quiz he explained what it takes to become a spotter in the state of Nebraska.

“You must take online courses and attend a weather spotting class provided by a National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist. Then you must pass a knowledge assessment course. After this, an aspiring spotter must seek out the proper certification credentials from the local Emergency Management Agency. The Emergency Manager, EM, will give you the application and then award you certification as a weather spotter,” Cox said.

In Kimball, Sheriff Harry Gillway is who to see about filling out the application to become a spotter. The application does require proof of the online courses and training session attended. Spotters must renew their application every three years. It is up to the EM to revoke certification if renewal is not performed.

Cox and Rubin explained that the US National Weather Service in Cheyenne could be found on both Facebook and Twitter. On both accounts they share up to date weather information and weather predictions as far out as two months. They encourage people to upload pictures of storms or weather happening locally, to the USNWS in Cheyenne’s Facebook page or Twitter. This will allow them to see what’s going on and make more accurate predictions. The USNWS can also be found online at http://www.weather.gov.

 

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