Note: This article appears in the February, 2018 issue of Allen County HamNews, a newsletter for the amateur radio operators of Fort Wayne and Allen County, Indiana. Some of the information might still be of value, however, to weather enthusiasts within driving distance of Indianapolis, Chicago or Columbus, Ohio.
It’s time again for a reminder about training for volunteer SKYWARN storm spotters (and those who would like to become spotters). As usual, the northern Indiana office of the National Weather Service (NWS) will provide a two-hour, in-person training session in Fort Wayne. This year’s event is scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 20, at the Public Safety Academy, 7602 Patriot Crossing (behind the Wal-Mart and Menards stores on U.S. 27 south of Tillman Road). Check-in begins at 6:30 p.m. Readers outside the Fort Wayne area should check with their local NWS offices for SKYWARN training sessions near them.
The NWS strongly requests all participants to register in advance via this website: http://bit.ly/2BC4fsi. To be honest, registration will be accepted at the door, but it helps the NWS a lot if you register in advance. Anyone who is unable to register via the web site may register via telephone by calling the Allen County Office of Homeland Security at 260-449-4671. There is no charge.
Reports from trained spotters, however, are much more valuable, because trained spotters are less likely to be fooled by scary-looking but benign clouds and are more likely to understand what the NWS really needs to know about (and what it doesn’t).
The NWS also strongly encourages all participants to complete a free, online independent study course before the in-person training session. This course contains valuable information that meteorologists won’t have time to cover during the in-person training. The online course can be found at http://bit.ly/1Ift9f0.
I’m often asked whether the NWS requires training and if so, how often. The honest answer is that the NWS will accept a storm report from anyone, whether or not that person has taken the training. Reports from trained spotters, however, are much more valuable, because trained spotters are less likely to be fooled by scary-looking but benign clouds and are more likely to understand what the NWS really needs to know about (and what it doesn’t).
That’s why the NWS recommends that spotters take the class at least once every three years. Many spotters attend every year, because it helps remind them of important information and because the NWS occasionally updates the class with new information.
Other education opportunities
For storm spotters who are interested in deeper dives into severe meteorology and related issues, several seminars in and near Indiana provide this opportunity.
The Indianapolis NWS office and the Indiana chapter of the American Meteorology Society host the biennial Central Indiana Severe Weather Symposium this year. Speakers include Alabama television meteorologist James Span, who also hosts the well-known weather podcast WeatherBrains and fellow WeatherBrain Dr. Kim Klockow-McClain, the podcast’s social science expert and a research scientist at the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies. The all-day event takes place Saturday, March 17 on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (a change from previous symposiums at Butler University). Learn more at http://bit.ly/2EmuvtZ.
The annual DuPage County Advanced Severe Weather Seminar takes place in one of Chicago’s western suburbs March 10. Specifically, the all-day event happens on the campus of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. That’s about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Fort Wayne, but I’ve always found the learning worth the drive. Learn more at http://bit.ly/2rKB9aM.
The Ohio State University Meteorology Club hosts its annual, day-long Severe Weather Symposium on the OSU campus Friday, March 9. I’ve also attended this event several times and found it worth the drive to Columbus. Find more information at http://bit.ly/2rPoC5O.