Become a volunteer weather spotter

Life Moments column
By Christine Bryant

I used to love storms as a child. I don’t ever recall being huddled under the sheets, peering out as flashes of lightning lit up the room.

I was the one at the window, eyes wide open, looking outside at the tree branches swaying in the wind and listening to the rain drops beat against the metal awning that hung over my bedroom window.

My fascination with storms grew after watching movies that included terrifying scenes, including “The Wizard of Oz” as a child up through the first time I saw “Twister” in high school.

Of course now as an adult, and a homeowner, threatening weather has taken on new meaning for me. While it’s exciting to see the skies darken, my mind wanders to other ramifications of severe weather, like whether all the branches on the tree in my front yard will stay intact or whether our electricity will stay on so I don’t lose the groceries I just purchased the night before.

Even still, I love a good storm, and if you’re like me and enjoy watching Mother Nature’s anger and beauty strike at the same time, there’s a great opportunity offered by the National Weather Service to be front and center.

As a way to put more eyes on the ground – and up in the air – the NWS uses volunteer weather spotters who report severe weather in real time back to the agency. Between 350,000 and 400,000 volunteers are enrolled in the SKYWARN Storm Spotter Program.

Training is free and typically lasts about two hours. In the class, participants learn the basics of thunderstorm development, the fundamentals of storm structure, the identification of potential severe weather features, what information to report, how to report information and basic severe weather safety.

Though spotter training classes have started in the area, there are a handful in central Ohio scheduled for later this month and in April.

Participants do not need to be a resident of the county in which a talk is being held in order to attend, and once the class is completed, the participant is an official trained spotter and can report severe weather to the local NWS office.

Upcoming classes include:
•Fairfield/Pickaway/Hocking counties: 6 p.m., March 21; 951 Liberty Drive, Lancaster;;
•Franklin County: 9 a.m., March 24; 2400 Olentangy River Road, Columbus;;
•Delaware County: 7 p.m., March 29; 7991 Columbus Pike, Lewis Center; (740) 833-2180;
•Licking County: 6 p.m., April 5; 1209 University Drive, Newark;; and
•Union County: 6:30 p.m., April 11; 940 London Ave., Marysville; (937) 645-3174.

For information go to
Christine Bryant is a Messenger staff writer and columnist.

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