As rains rolled in and out of Knoxville Tuesday afternoon, a group of East Tennesseans were busy learning exactly how those clouds develop and what they mean.

"We took the sky warn class to be trained spotters and be able to help when severe weather comes our way," said certified spotter Cathi Ogle.

She was attending the class to renew her certification, which expires every two years.

“We want to help people be prepared for the weather because it is very changeable here, you could have snow in the morning, the downpours then warm spring weather,” said Ogle.

Spotters learn how to examine clouds, what characteristics to look for and how to identify future risks.

"We talk about thunderstorms, the different types and what produces a tornado,” explained Anthony Cavallucci with the National Weather Service.

While the NWS center in Morristown has sophisticated radar equipment, they still need eyes on the ground.

"We might know it’s snowing, but not how much until someone measures it,” said Cavallucci. “That real ground truth is important to carry weight with our warnings we issue.”

There are lots of fun gadgets to buy or make at home to measure data, but being a spotter can be also be a  simple as watching, taking a picture and reporting what’s happening outside your window.

"The real time information they provide us, helps us get the word out to all the media, and spread the word rapidly, so they can protect their families, friends, themselves,” said Cavallucci.

Spotter training is free and open to everyone. No previous knowledge required.


MARCH 9, 2017 – ROANE COUNTY – 7 p.m.

Rockwood Community Center

701 Chamberlain Ave.

Rockwood, TN 37854

Contact: Cliff Segar

MARCH 11, 2017 – SEVIER COUNTY – 10 a.m.

King Family Library

408 High St.

Sevierville, TN 37862

Contact: Rick Sawaya