Weather service wants observant people | PostIndependent.com
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Weather service wants observant people

The National Weather Service is looking for some people on the ground to keep their eyes peeled on the skies.The agency is holding local Weather Spotter classes to train volunteers to report local conditions in order to help the agency do its job better.”They’re a tremendous help to us,” said Jeff Colton, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office.He said class participants will learn what is required of them as spotters and what they would be observing in the atmosphere, from summer thunderstorms to winter snowfall.”We give them a rain gauge to set up at their home so they can call up with rainfall reports,” Colton said.He said volunteers are encouraged to call in with reports whenever there is severe weather.Local reports can be helpful because the agency’s radar is located at about 10,000 feet in elevation. It can be hard to detect storms at lower elevations, particularly at greater distances from the radar. Weather spotters can help check the accuracy and reliability of radar, Colton said.Spotters also can report whether thunderstorms produce hail or strong winds, which can help forecasters predict such byproducts of similar storms in the future.”That’s part of becoming a forecaster, is learning what’s happened in the past,” Colton said.Spotters also inform the agency of lightning – a killer on Colorado’s Western Slope, Colton said.If they choose, volunteers can take more advanced classes covering things such as storm structures and what causes tornadoes.weather: see page 3weather: from page 1″We’re working on a winter class, too, because that’s obviously one of the biggest issues in western Colorado,” Colton said.Seven people attended a recent class in Rifle, and Colton hopes to see twice that number at a class tonight in Carbondale.About 30 people now volunteer from Silt to Aspen, Colton said. More can be found in the Rifle area. Colton said many local volunteers live in towns, and he’d like more representation from rural areas, to extend the geographic reach of the program. Increased numbers also help improve coverage when volunteers are away from home.Some people help the agency by calling in information on a more informal basis, but once they go through training, “their reports are taken very seriously,” he said.Volunteers go away from classes with a lot of written materials to supplement what they learn in class.What attracts people to the spotter program?”Usually it’s just an interest in weather, and just wanting to learn more about what causes the weather. Most of the people who come out are just fascinated by the weather and want to know why this is happening, why this is occurring,” Colton said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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