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Community invited to attend spotter class and become ‘eyes on the ground’ for National Weather Service

March 4, 2016

The National Weather Service will host a Basic SKYWARN® Spotter Class on Thursday, March 17, from 6-8 p.m. in the Alumni Assembly Hall at The Inn at Virginia Tech.

The course is free and open to everyone who is interested in serving as the local eyes for the National Weather Service. Registration is not required.

SKYWARN® is a volunteer program with nearly 290,000 trained severe weather spotters. These volunteers help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service.

Officials with the university’s Office of Emergency Management and the Blacksburg office of the National Weather Service are hoping for a large turnout of students, employees, and community members.

“There’s a false misconception that severe weather can’t happen in the mountains,” said John Beach, chief of staff for Facilities Operations at Virginia Tech.

Just a few weeks ago, on February 24, at least eight tornadoes touched down in southern and southeastern Virginia according to the National Weather Service. One of those, an E3 tornado, touched down in Appomattox County, Virginia – about 100 miles from the university’s Blacksburg campus.

In previous years, several other significant weather events have impacted southern Virginia, including April 2011 tornados in Pulaski County, Glade Spring, and Mt. Rogers National Park as well as a June 12–13, 2013 derecho series and a June 2012 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest derecho.

“Ground truth reports from spotters help to give credibility to the warnings issued by the National Weather Service to those people who are in the path of a potentially life-threatening storm. This ground-truth information helps motivate people in harm's way to take action to protect themselves and their property,” said Beach.

During the two-hour course, participants will learn:

  • Basics of thunderstorm development
  • Fundamentals of storm structure
  • Identifying potential severe weather features
  • Information to report
  • How to report information
  • Basic severe weather safety

For more information, email Phil Hysell, warning coordination meteorologist, with the National Weather Service’s Blacksburg office.

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