Loving weather is easy and so is becoming a Skywarn Spotter

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Not everyone chooses to pursue meteorology as their career path, but most folks are interested in the world of weather.

Balloon LaunchThe National Weather Service offers classes to help you be able to identify severe weather, which can also help them to track storms and update their watches and warnings.

“We talk about how tornadoes develop so people can know what storms to watch for, which ones are more likely to produce tornadoes. And then also, of course, the downdrafts, which are dangerous in themselves, since we can have some very strong downdraft winds and very large hail. And then just other safety information as well,” explains Susan Sanders, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the Rapid City National Weather Service.

This two hour course is known as Skywarn Training, and those who attend can become official Skywarn Spotters. “We depend on our Skywarn Spotters to provide us real time reports of developing tornadoes and flash floods. They have good communications with us,” Sanders adds. “So no matter where the storm is, they’ll be able to tell us what’s happening, what they’re seeing, and we can correlate that with the radar information. ”

By verifying radar reports with human observations, the Weather Service can release watches and warnings with increased certainty.

“We won’t deploy individuals to look for tornadoes, but if they happen to see something developing, they can sure notify us. It puts their location on our radar map so we can compare their report with the storm and we can understand a little bit more of what the storm is producing,” says Sanders.

It’s important though that those who submit weather reports know what to look for.

“There’s a lot of cloud features that may look like tornadoes or other kinds of severe storms, but they’re not. And so recognizing where you should watch for a storm and what kind of features to look for, it is important to identify the right kind of storm,” she adds.

Plus, it’s a great opportunity for those who are interested in weather to better understand just how storms form and behave. Sanders says that “kids could learn a lot about the science of storms as well. That was probably interesting to us when we were young, at that age.”

The class also include methods to stay safe during the severe weather season that begins in spring and continue through the summer.

“You know, a lot of times of the summer, our mornings are really nice and bright and clear. And pretty soon at 2:00 or so, the storms start building up. So anyone planning on doing outdoor activities should just be aware that there’s always the possibility of storms and then which days there could be stronger storms or even severe storms,” concludes Sanders.

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