Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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March 10, 2014

Storm spotter training well attended

Corsicana — The National Weather Service office in Fort Worth has monitors, radar, radio, computers, cell phones and satellite feeds, but no windows.

To get a good view of what’s actually happening, they rely on spotters, explained Mark A. Fox, warning and coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, who spoke Saturday at a Skywarn training seminar at the Palace Theatre in Corsicana.

The curvature of the earth means they can only get a partial picture with radar, Fox explained, basically anything above 4,500 feet can be seen with radar.

But tornadoes and hail are at ground level, he said.

“We need spotters to tell us what we can’t see on the radar,” he said. “Radar and satellite are great tools, but they don’t give you everything. We’ve got to put the two together and try to figure out what’s going on.”

This part of North Texas has been lucky in recent years, up until 2013. There were no tornado fatalities in this area between 2006 and last year, but that streak ended May 15 when a tornado hit Cleburne and Granbury, killing six people.

In the training session, which was pretty much all day, potential spotters were taught what to look for, how to interpret radar readings, and then more advanced meteorological signs.

But they were also warned about how to track and observe tornadoes safely. On May 31, 2013, four tornado chasers were killed when a twister near El Reno, Okla., turned suddenly and wiped out three professional storm chasers and one amateur.

“What we need is for everything to be done safely,” Fox said.

Using lots of photos and graphics, the students were shown what the cloud formations look like, and what symptoms to watch out for that preface a tornado.

“Tornadoes are very rare but if it hits you it’s definitely going to be a life-changing event,” Fox said.

Bill Vitovsky came from Ennis for the seminar. It’s something he’s wanted to do for the last two years, he said.

“I’m retired, so I have some time, and I was always interested in the weather,” he said.

Rod Skelton and Bobby Frances came from Palestine for the event. Frances said he’s been spotting for the past three years and wanted to attend an advanced class.

Many of the students from Navarro County were law enforcement and volunteer fire department responders.

Navarro County residents are very active, organizers said.

“We’re probably one of the most active severe weather spotters in the region,” said Eric Meyers, Office of Emergency Management coordinator for Navarro County.

   —————

Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “Soundoff” to this article? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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