Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

March 22, 2013

Skywarn storm spotting training draws a crowd

Class teaches basics of spotting, reporting

By Raymond Linex II
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — In 2012, the 46 counties that make up the area the National Weather Service of Fort Worth office serves had 18 reported tornados. Seventeen of them came on April 3, including the one in Lancaster that lifted empty big-rig trailers into the afternoon sky.

“That’s a rather quite (tornado) season if you take away April 3,” NWS Meteorologist Nick Hampshire told Thursday night’s Skywarn Spotter Training class at the Palace in downtown.

But that doesn’t mean the emphasis on spotting and reporting has waned. The Rice tornado of Oct. 24, 2010 raised awareness in Navarro County for severe weather, and it remains high. Almost 130 people attended Thursday’s class, an annual session presented by the Navarro County Office of Emergency Management.

By comparison, Hampshire said the low end of the eight training sessions he has steered this year have included 15 to 20 people. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Dallas and Tarrant county training sessions had about 300 people each. Those counties have 2.4 and 1.8 million people, respectively. Navarro County has 48,000.

“Navarro County has a good turnout,” Hampshire said after the two-hour event ended. He said a lot of that credit goes to NCOEM Coordinator Eric Meyers Jr.

“We’re trying to get the word out and to get as many people trained as possible,” Hampshire said.

Meyers opened the event and thanked the volunteers in Navarro County, one of only 31 counties state-wide certified as Texas Storm Ready.

“We have a tremendous base of volunteers in our county,” Meyers said.

The session covered the basic elements of storm spotting, and reporting to the NWS, a practice that has certainly changed with technology. Once a ham radio dominated effort, the presence of the NWS on Facebook and Twitter — and the public’s ability to communicate with the office — has added eyes in the field.

Fast, reliable and accurate reporting from the field is key, Hampshire said. Safety is the No. 1 priority, he said.

Hampshire also stressed that spotters need to report what they see in the field, not what they see on radar. A radar cannot detect a tornado, only the rotation, so an actual tornado report comes from a spotter.

He did say when it came to radar, Navarro County has a secret weapon.

“Corsicana is in a good spot because of Lloyd’s radar,” Hampshire said, praising Corsicana Radar owner Lloyd Huffman, who was handling lighting and audio for the show. “We have what I like to call the ‘bat phone.’ We can call Lloyd and see what he’s seeing here.”

During a short, Q&A-type quiz session, Hampshire asked those in attendance about a report that should have been sent out during the April 3 outbreak. It concerned a warning issued for Mesquite, and included three choices. All but one person said they would select the warning that — they learned a few seconds later — the NWS actually issued. Hampshire said it was the wrong choice.

David Rainbolt, a trained spotter from Milford, was the only person to choose the right one. The warning in question was issued for the area near the Mesquite Rodeo, because that is where three spotters confirmed a tornado ... that was actually four miles away. Hampshire said meteorologists on duty at the time should have known by the storm’s positioning on the radar it was too far away from the rodeo.

Rainbolt said he had another reason for picking the right answer.

“I was there,” he said. He was spotting that day, and left from downtown Waxahachie to follow the storm.

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On the Net:

www.facebook.com/US.NationalWeatherService.FortWorth.gov#!/NavarroCountyOEM

www.srh.noaa.gov/fwd/

www.facebook.com/US.NationalWeatherService.FortWorth.gov

www.corad.org

On Twitter:

@NWSFortWorth

@NavarroOEM

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