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National Weather Service offering free Storm Spotter classes

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Indianapolis (March 8, 2016) - Officials with the National Weather Service are offering several free Storm Spotter training classes over the next few weeks in central Indiana.

The classes are designed to teach people how to interpret radar, cloud formations and other atmospheric conditions during severe weather outbreaks.  National Weather Service Meteorologist Marc Dahmer says ground level reports from weather spotters can greatly enhance the warnings sent out during weather events.

“Our radar can only tell us so much, because the beam is already up a few hundred feet, and then as it goes out away from the radar, we lose resolution,” Dahmer said.  “That’s why having people that are actually out in the field giving us real time information on what’s going on there is invaluable.”

Dahmer says the NWS already has a network of hundreds of weather spotters around the state of Indiana.  But every year, they work to train more.  Real-time weather reports from spotters are often included in NWS alerts and warnings, which are sent out to the public over weather radio and through broadcast outlets.

Dahmer says people react differently when they hear about severe weather happening near specific locations.  Hearing that a tornado has been spotted in one’s home county is one thing, he said.  But hearing specific street names and intersections mentioned in a warning is very different.

During a late December tornado that did heavy damage to an animal hospital in Greenwood, the National Weather Service was able to send out alerts that the tornado had been spotted near the intersection of State Road 135 and Smith Valley Road.  That specific information came from weather spotters in the area who had been eye witness to the tornado.

“What makes them take action quicker, is if they hear that the tornado is on the ground doing damage,” Dahmer said.

The classes also include important information on how to stay safe during severe storms.  Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Indiana is coming up during the week of March 20-26.

About two dozen people attended a free storm spotter class Tuesday afternoon at Franciscan St. Francis Health on the south side of Indianapolis.  Several more free classes are being offered at multiple locations over the next few weeks.

You can find a full list of times and locations on the National Weather Service website.