MASON COUNTY— Everyday access to weather reports are a small luxury that at times may be taken for granted.

Whether it’s on television, the Internet, or our cell phones, there are those who plan their lives around Mother Nature, whether it is travelling plans, or other outdoor events. There seems to a select few who report on what the weather conditions will be, but in reality, there is an opportunity for those here in Mason County to get involved.

For those interested in this subject matter, there is a program called SKYWARN. At 5 p.m. on Feb. 9, there will be a SKYWARN weather class at the Mason County 911 Center. Hosted by the Mid-Ohio Valley Amateur Radio Club, along with the Mason County Office of Emergency Services and the Meigs County Emergency Agency, this free class is open to any who is interested in public service and has access to communication, like a HAM radio. Many of SKYWARN’s current volunteers are police and fire personnel, dispatchers, EMS workers, and public utility workers.

SKYWARN is a program that trains individuals to report severe local weather to the National Weather Service (NWS). SKYWARN consists of 290,000 trained volunteers, who are referred to as “spotters.” As a spotter, one will not only report on local weather conditions. More importantly, a spotter helps identify and describe local storms. A SKYWARN spotter reports on things such as wind gusts, hail size, rainfall, and cloud formations.

This program first began in the 1970s, and the information provided by spotters has helped improve satellite data and has allowed the NWS to issue more accurate warnings for events like tornadoes, thunderstorms, and flash floods. In a SKYWARN training session, one will learn about thunderstorm development, the fundamentals of storm structure, how to identify potential severe weather conditions, how to report information, and basic weather safety.

It is also important to note that SKYWARN is not club or organization. Spotters are also very different from a “storm chaser.” A storm chaser travels much longer distances, and they are often meteorologists doing research. In any case, both spotters and storm chasers can be very dangerous without the proper training, experience, and equipment.

Text: Nathan Jeffers
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