“Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.”

Members of the Sun City Amateur Radio Club may not be able to change the weather, but many of them — along with neighbors — join the National Weather Service in helping to make the predictions both more accurate and informational. The “hams” will ihost a SKYWARN training at 7 p.m. Thursday in Pinckney Hall.

It’s not possible to change the way the winds blow, the rain falls or the snow flurries, but it is important to know what to do when severe weather strikes. That is the goal of the NWS forecasters who predict the weather. Knowing what the weather is doing where the people are helps verify what the forecasters are seeing on their radars.

“We train people to observe weather things like funnel clouds, or tornadoes which would be the precursors to the bad weather,” said forecaster Ron Morales from the Charleston NWS office. “Mostly what we end up getting is reports of the damage, trees down, cars overturned.”

Many SKYWARN observers are amateur radio operators, because when the power goes and a storm knocks out communications towers, they crank up reserve power generators to provide emergency communications.


Training the ground force

“We’re both amateur radio operators and whenever there was any kind of storm, we would go out and report and it was really helpful,” said Arlene Hickey. She and her husband Warren are members of the Amateur Radio Club and moved to Sun City from Colorado where they were very active in SKYWARN.

“We used to check water levels in various places where it would rise. The other thing they really like to know is what is happening on the ground where you are. Is there hail? What size is it? As you know with these storms, the more accurate information they get, the better able they are to say it’s heavier in these areas, lighter in those. So they need more eyes on the ground to tell them the information,” Hickey said.

“It adds more detail and bite to the warning itself,” Morales said. “If the warning says the National Weather Service is issuing a storm warning for a storm that could cause damage, if we have a trained spotter on the ground — that gives a lot more teeth and has the potential to make somebody to react. And it gives a lot of confidence to the radar operator, as in ‘Yes, people are seeing what I’m looking at and it is correct’.”

Morales said the training provided at the SKYWARN training is quite basic.

“We talk about what we do at the NWS and why we need the storm spotters,” he said. “People think we don’t need eyes and ears because we have all this technology, but we still need that. Even if you are perfect, it still comes down to the reaction of the people who hears the warning. If they don’t really feel that they’re in danger then their likelihood to react does down dramatically and that’s been proven time and time again.”


Weather reaction

“Social science gets involved and tells us that people are not taking heed to our warnings. We have to fight that even with a tornado warning that goes out within the polygon area you see on a weather map,” Morales said. “Even within that area, 90-95 percent of the polygon is not going to receive the impact, so those people don’t believe there was a storm because it wasn’t seen. The area of impact, even if it is a mile wide, is still a small piece of planet Earth. That is unlike a hurricane that covers hundreds of miles of Earth and you can see it coming.”

With so much information available, Morales said there really is no reason for not reacting to weather forecasts. The issue now is “do you understand what it means and do you know what you’re going to do with the information?

“Within a month now, all the big cell phone carriers are going to carry the warnings automatically and distribute to their phones,” Morales said. “You can get President Alerts, which is we’re under attack, take cover; Amber Alerts; Silver Alerts; and then the Hazardous Weather Alerts. Wherever you are, in your location you’ll be getting it.”



The Amateur Radio Club will present a SKYWARN presentation at the monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in Pinckney Hall. Everyone is welcome to attend to learn how the hams communicate through bad weather.


Source: www.savannahnow.com - Gwyneth J. Saunders Mark Twain

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