The Lifesaving Value of a Timely Severe Weather Report
By Dave Wert, Meteorologist-in-Charge

No doubt that if you are reading this newsletter, you are a weather enthusiast.  You are interested in the unique changes that each day brings - from warm to cool, wet to dry, and everything in between.  Like you, I have been fascinated by the weather since I was a young boy.  I have been one of the lucky few that has had a hobby grow into a profession.  When not at work, I'm still looking at the weather - just like many of you.

Because of your interest in weather, you are in a unique position to be able to use your interests to directly impact the lives of others.  Despite the wonderful advances in the science of Meteorology during the past decade, and in the technologies that we use to make day to day forecasts, we will always need humans to report what is actually happening at ground level.  The utility of our radar showing a possible tornado developing at eight thousand feet above ground level doesn't help us to tell what is happening at ground level at that location.  When we issue severe weather warnings with this type of information, people are more apt to go outside and look for the weather threat than they are to seek a place of safety.  However, when our warnings carry with them a specific reference to what is happening at ground level because of a report that a trained spotter has relayed to us, people take notice and act accordingly!

For example, folks are far more apt to seek shelter and not take unnecessary chances when a Tornado Warning that we issue states "National Weather Service Doppler Radar is indicating a developing tornado over the town of Danville moving northeast at 35 mph toward the town of South Boston.  Trained spotters in the area are confirming that a large tornado is on the ground in Danville and is destroying everything in it's path.  All folks residing between Danville and South Boston must seek shelter indoors right now, preferably below ground level!!!"     

What a wonderful thing.  You can use your passion and interest in weather to save the life of another simply by becoming trained in storm recognition and in how to relay your report back to the National Weather Service so that we can provide this information in our severe weather warnings and statements.  Your specific ground-based information helps to sensitize the public to an imminent weather threat and their need to take action to save their life and property.  There truly is no greater joy and sense of fulfillment in life - to know that you have made and are making a positive difference in the lives of others.

So, how do you go about becoming a trained spotter and knowing how to relay critical weather information to us in real-time during a significant weather event?  Simply attend one of the many spotter training sessions that we will be conducting across the area this spring.  A list of training locations, times and dates can be found on our web site.  By becoming a trained spotter, we know that we can trust your reports when you call them in to us or when you send them electronically via the Internet.  These storm training sessions also are a great way to get to meet folks who also have an interest in the weather, or who have a formal responsibility to support warning preparedness activities within their respective town, county, or jurisdiction.

So, please consider using your weather interest to get involved in a way that is both fun and which may also result in a tremendous benefit to others in your community. 

You never know, you may end up saving a life or two in the process!