KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A group of East Tennesseans gathered Monday to learn an important set of skills — how to spot when severe weather is developing in their area.
The National Weather Service's SKYWARN Storm Spotter Program is a volunteer program that shows people how to identify and report important weather information in their area. They said there are between 350,000 and 400,000 trained spotters helping the NWS predict storms.
By going through the 2 hours training, volunteers can learn the basics of how thunderstorms develop. They can also learn the fundamentals of storm structure and identify some of the biggest features of potential severe weather. After collecting all that information, volunteers can learn how to report it to the NWS.
That information helps the NWS to issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods, according to the program's website.
"We do this every year, especially January, February, March because that leads into the most difficult weather time of the year," said Clark Measels, a radio operator with the NWS. "We talk about thunderstorms — the different types and what produces a tornado."
One person who participated in the training on Monday said that it gave them a chance to see what red and green radar information can look like from the ground.
"To be able to actually see what's happening from underneath that radar picture, from on the ground, can be useful," said James Gallup, from Sweetwater. "To try and get the word out in advance of bad weather, in any given area, because there are clearly safer places to be and more dangerous places to be during a storm."
He also said that the classes helped him learn how to tell if a particular cloud or storm is something he should warn people about, at home.
"I've been in those situations, where I've wondered if what I am seeing is a tornado in that particular direction, and to learn that it's just a wall cloud," said Gallup.
Anyone can be certified through the program, and the NWS said they are looking for volunteers. Anyone interested in the program can find a class in their area online.
"You can save lives, which I think is the biggest thing," said Measels.