135 Attend Ft. Wayne SKYWARN storm spotter training

135 people attend SKYWARN storm spotter training presented Feb. 21, 2017 by meteorologists from the Northern Indiana National Weather Service office at the Public Safety Academy in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

This is a “reprint” of an article I submitted to the March issue of Allen County HamNews, the monthly newsletter of all three Fort Wayne-based ham radio clubs.

An unusually large crowd of 135 people attended SKYWARN storm spotter training at the Public Safety Academy on the south side of Fort Wayne Feb. 21. That compares to 87 in 2016 and 91 in 2015.

This year’s presentation included video and images from the Aug. 24, 2016 tornado outbreak. Some interesting tidbits from the presentation included:

•    The tornado that struck northeastern Allen County Aug. 24 was stronger than the one that demolished the Starbucks coffee shop in Kokomo.

•    14 tornadoes touched down in Indiana and Ohio counties covered by the northern Indiana National Weather Service office (IWX).

•    Of those, every single tornado touchdown was preceded by a tornado warning from (IWX).

•    The average time lead time for IWX tornado warnings was 16 minutes (i.e. on average, IWX issued tornado warnings 16 minutes before the first touchdown).

•    When spotters use the web form to make a report, meteorologists in the NWS office hear an alarm as soon as it’s submitted.

Meteorologist Sam Lashley reminded spotters that the NWS does not wish to receive reports of shelf clouds or SCUD (scattered cumulus under deck) clouds. Shelf clouds can come with damaging straight-line winds, so spotters should take cover when they see one coming. The NWS will want to know about any damage those winds cause, but it does not need to know about the cloud itself. SCUD clouds can look scary, but they’re harmless, so the NWS doesn’t want to spend time taking reports of those, either.

For anyone who missed the Feb. 21 event, three more are planned close to Fort Wayne:

  • March 7, 7 p.m., 22491 Mill Street, Defiance, Ohio
  • March 9, 6 p.m., 200 W. Washington Street, Bluffton, Indiana
  • March 13, 7 p.m., 503 Fairground Drive, Paulding, Ohio

Valuable information is also available via the COMET MetED online course.

A significant number of non-hams attended this year’s sessions, in part because Fort Wayne TV meteorologists promoted the event to their audiences on social media. Expecting this, the Fort Wayne Radio Club set up an information table just outside the auditorium, from which it distributed numerous pieces of literature about ham radio and its advantages for storm spotters.

The Fort Wayne Radio Club set up an information table at the storm spotter training session, to provide information to spotters who don't (yet) have ham radio licenses.
The Fort Wayne Radio Club set up an information table at the storm spotter training session, to provide information to spotters who don’t (yet) have ham radio licenses.

First activation of season Feb. 24

Severe weather season arrived early this year, as Allen County received its first severe thunderstorm watch Feb. 24. Allen County SKYWARN activated in standby mode at about 4 p.m., after the NWS issued the watch at 3:45. W9GGA, N9HRA and KC9EZP took shifts monitoring the frequency for any spotter reports. Fortunately, not all the necessary ingredients for severe weather arrived at the same time and the watch ended early, at 7:11 p.m.

OSU Severe Weather Symposium to discuss August outbreak

Several presenters during the 2017 Ohio State University Severe Weather Symposium, scheduled for Friday, March 24 in Columbus, Ohio, will talk about the August 24 outbreak. The line-up includes:

  • Mark Frazier – Meteorologist in Charge, NWS Northern Indiana, Indiana
  • Rick McCoy – Director of Van Wert County EMA, Ohio
  • Nick Greenawalt – NWS Cleveland, Ohio (formerly of NWS Northern Indiana)

Other speakers of note include:

  • Greg Forbes – Severe Weather expert, The Weather Channel
  • Ariel Cohen – Mesoscale Assistant/Fire Weather Forecaster, NWS Storm Prediction Center

This symposium is free and is often attended by storm spotters, storm chasers, emergency managers and many OSU meteorology students. If you’re willing to drive to Columbus on a Friday, the symposium provides a good chance to learn more than normal spotter training covers. Follow the link above for more information and to pre-register.

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