Reductions in funding have caused the National Weather Service to scale back the number of severe weather spotter classes it is offering. In northwest Missouri, the number of talks has been cut in half.
Andy Bailey is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for NWS’s Pleasant Hill office. “Where as in the past we would do forty-five to fifty training sessions per season, this year we’re looking at about twenty-five.”
Bailey explains, the spotter schedule has been adjusted so the Service can get the most “bang for its buck.”
“For some of the rural areas, we’re working to do spotter training at one location per county every other year. In urban areas, where population is higher, we need to do it every year. We also do it every year in locations that are a little bit further away from our radar.” Bailey says that is because basic radar limitations mean the Service needs more eyes in those areas. “Places like around the Kirksville area, for instance, we’ll do spotter training there every year.”
The classes teach attendees how storms form, why certain types of severe weather develops and where to look in a storm to see if certain phenomena are developing, such as a tornado.
Bailey says it can take a while to sink in. “After just one training course they’re probably still a little bit fuzzy but if they come back every year or two to get training and they go out spotting quite a bit, they really get to be very skilled at identifying that weather.”