people in more rural or remote areas. Being able to recognize signs of impending large hail, flash flooding or tornadoes can mean the difference between life and death.
Weather forecasts are great, but when severe weather moves into your area weather spotters are invaluable in alerting residents to developing situations — which can change instantly.
The National Weather Service relies on trained weather spotters to help keep them abreast of developing trends and situations so they can notify the general public to take any action necessary to protect themselves and their property.
“Weather radar is a great tool, but it only tells part of the storm’s story. Spotter observations are fundamental to the protection of life,” said Tom Bradshaw, meteorologist-in-charge of the Fort Worth NWS office, which provides forecasts, warnings and weather service for 46 counties in north and central Texas, including Hopkins County. “The combination of spotter reports and radar data gives us the best possible picture of the storms and what’s going on inside them.”
To make sure communities have an adequate number of trained spotters ready to spring into action with the shift of clouds, air currents and other conditions, NWS partners with emergency officials in communities annually to educate emergency responders and the general public about severe weather predictors.
The NWS, in partnership with Sulphur Springs Police Department and Hopkins County Emergency Management, will present SKYWARN severe weather program Thursday, Jan. 17, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Sulphur Springs Public Library. The program is free and open to the public. No advanced registration is necessary.
“By coming to this program, you will learn a lot about thunderstorms,” said Mark Fox, warning coordination meteorologist at the Fort Worth NWS office. “Even if you don't become an active storm spotter, you will learn about how storms work and the visual clues you can identify when storms are in your area. This will better prepare yourself and your family for the threats that storms pose.”
In April 2012, 17 tornadoes swept through North Texas, including Hopkins County. Because of weather radar, data and storm spotters, the NWS issued tornado warnings. Of the more than 5 million people under tornado watch April 3, no fatalities and very few injuries were recorded because of those combined efforts, the NWS noted in a press release.
In Hopkins County, several schools went into lockdown as the tornadoes blew over about the time classes were being dismissed, town emergency sirens alerted citizens to take shelter, in some cases officers made announcements over the speakers on their vehicles to alert neighborhoods, and weather spotters were out reporting. Straight line winds were confirmed to have caused damage locally, flooding was reported and motorist sought shelter. But, thanks to those warnings and continued progress reports, motorists and residents were able to seek shelter, take immediate action and protect themselves.
According to Fox, even those who have attended previous SKYWARN severe weather spotter programs can benefit from the Jan. 17 program, which features “quite a bit of new material for this year's spotter training program.”
“We will be showing data from the severe weather events of 2012, plus emphasize how your storm observations help to save lives,” Fox noted.
Thunderstorm formation, ingredients and features associated with severe storms will be discussed at the Jan. 17 program. Tornado formation and behavior will also be reviewed to give those attending some insight as to why some storms produce tornadoes and some do not. NWS personnel will discuss non-threatening clues, which may be mistaken for significant features, and spotter operations and recommended reporting procedures. The two-hour presentation will be in multimedia format, featuring numerous new pictures of storms, as well as new video from the 2012 severe storm season. With the 2013 severe weather season rapidly approaching, the NWS encourages all who are able and interested to attend this session to better prepare learn what they can do to keep themselves and others safe when thunderstorms threaten.
The Hopkins County severe weather program is one of over 60 training sessions that the Fort Worth NWS Office will conduct between January and March.
For more information on severe weather, go visit www.weather.gov/fortworth, www.facebook.com/US.NationalWeatherService.FortWorth.gov and on Twitter: @NWSFortWorth.
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