The National Weather Service is hosting training for storm spotters in Southeastern Idaho. There are already more than 500 in the area, but the service is super dependent on them and looking for more.
Part of the SKYWARN program that includes more than 350,000 volunteers nationwide, the only thing people need to help report storms is the willingness to participate and the ability to communicate.
Groups like the National Weather Service use radar to track storm systems every day, but they also use spotters to show them the things that radar doesn’t.
“The interesting thing about radar is radar sees what’s kind of happening up in the clouds, but not necessarily what’s happening down on the ground,” Dan Valle, a forecaster with the NWS explained. “So, that’s where spotters come in handy. They give us the ground truth of what is actually occurring.”
Valle said it’s critical to have them in the sometimes sparse areas of the state, as they are the number one source of reliable reports from the scene.
Anyone can be a spotter, and Valle said the free training is really easy.
“We teach them everything they need to know, including thunderstorm basics, how thunderstorms develop, what sorts of hazards things you see and look for, like wall clouds, funnel clouds, those sorts of things, hail.”
Having people report on these storms enhances the information the service can then distribute, but they don’t want people chasing storms.
“We want them in a place where they’re safe and let the weather come to them and then just report to us what weather passed through their area,” Valle said.
Many people love being part of the program because they can help and it’s not a job.
“There’s no time commitment, there’s no money commitment to it,” Valle explained. “It’s just literally, show up for an hour or two, get some easy education, free education, and you’re in the program.”
The service has been running this training for the last four months, but due to their heavy reliance on spotters, they’re always looking for more.
There are two upcoming training events, the first will be held at the Montpelier fire station on July 13 at 10 a.m., and the second will be held at the Downey fire station on August 15 at 7 p.m.