Weather spotters class planned

Published 1:53 pm Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A SkyWarn Class for weather spotters has been set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 2, at the Pearl River County Emergency Operations Center in Poplarville.

The class is for those interested in becoming weather spotters, as well as recertification of those previously trained, Pearl River County Communications Officer David Moore (N5ELI) said.

For those interested in becoming spotters, Moore said the training is not complicated and involves being aware of developing weather by observing certain criteria.

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SkyWarn is a concept developed in the late 1960s that was intended to promote a cooperative effort between the National Weather Service and communities. The emphasis of the effort is often focused on the storm spotter, an individual who takes a position near a community and reports wind gusts, hail size, rainfall, and cloud formations that could signal a developing tornado.

Moore said Pearl River County has had weather spotters for several years, at one time having as many as 50 certified spotters but that now there were approximately 12 active spotters.

A spotter will observe various weather conditions and call the information in to the county emergency management office. Moore said an example of observational guidelines for hail and wind would be if a storm produces hail the size of a quarter or wind that sways or bends trees to a certain degree. The amount of sway or bend indicates approximate wind speed, he said.

Moore said there is no cost involved or equipment needed and the certification is good for two years before recertification is needed. He said the class is about two and a half hours long and taught by a representative of the National Weather Service.

Another part of SkyWarn is the receipt and effective distribution of National Weather Service information.

In Pearl River County, the Pearl River County Amateur Radio Club has sponsored a SkyWarn program, which reports through the Emergency Operations Center to provide information to the National Weather Service Offices in Slidell, La.

SkyWarn spotters are not by definition “Storm Chasers.” While their functions and methods are similar, the spotter stays close to home and reports through a local agency, unlike storm chasers, who often cover hundreds of miles a day and cover large geographical areas.

The Emergency Operations Center is located on Mississippi Highway 26, just east of Poplarville, between the city limits and Interstate 59.