National Weather Service, emergency managers organize storm spotter training
By Bryan Painter
NORMAN, Okla. — Respect the storm. That's the core message National Weather Service forecasters will convey during storm spotter training sessions this month through March.
"Definitely the most important thing is respecting the storms," said Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist. "People see lots of tornado video on cable and things are dramatized and made to look exciting and cool, but it's not a television show, it's not a video game, it's real. You have to understand that and know how to be safe."
This year, storm spotter training begins Jan. 25 with a session at Coalgate.
The National Weather Service conducts the training sessions at the invitation of local emergency management officials, who in most cases are responsible for maintaining their network of local storm spotters.
The training sessions are usually about two hours long and cover fundamental information that every spotter needs to know, with a focus on safety, identification of key weather features and proper reporting procedures.
Most sessions are open to anyone, although you should contact the emergency management director before attending, especially if you're interested in serving as a spotter. About 40 to 50 people attend each class.
Why talk about tornadoes in January? Last year Oklahoma experienced an unlikely six tornadoes in February and only four in May, usually a busy month, said Gary McManus, associate state climatologist of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.
"We talk about this all the time, and last year it was well demonstrated," Smith said. "Storms don't have a calendar. You've got to be ready all the time. And if there's a tornado watch, it doesn't matter what month it is. You never know if that day is the day."
Storm spotter training
The National Weather Service's Norman Forecast Office is responsible for 48 counties in Oklahoma and eight in western and north Texas. For more information regarding the 2010 Storm Spotter Training Schedule, go to www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/?n=spottertalk or contact the emergency management director in the host city before attending. Dates and locations still subject to change.