National Weather Service trains ground spotters for severe weather

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BLACKSBURG (WSLS)-- As we move into severe weather season, the National Weather Service is working to get more Skywarn spotters trained to accurately record and report severe weather.

The National Weather Service in Blacksburg covers 40 counties across Virginia and into West Virginia, so it's impossible for them to have a trained meteorologist on the ground in every single area. Instead, they train these Skywarn spotters to act as their eyes and ears on the ground and report information.

There are currently more than 2,400 trained spotters in our area who are able to identify severe weather features and report back to the NWS. The ground truth reports from these qualified spotters help to validate and give credibility to the warnings issued by the National Weather Service.

When people who are in the path of the storm hear about he damage in other places, experts say it's more likely for them to listen to the warning and take shelter.

"This is a great opportunity for your to help save someone's life by providing ground truth information," says Phil Hysell, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service. "That's going to motivate someone in the storm to take the appropriate shelter."

Some people believe that severe weather and tornadoes can't happen in our area because of the mountains, but in the past few years we've seen tornadoes touch down in Pulaski County, Glade Spring and Mt. Rogers. Just three weeks ago an E3 tornado touched down in Appomattox County, something that will shape part of tonight's discussion.

"We certainly will be talking about tornadoes," says Hysell. "We will also be talking about some of the cloud features that appear before a tornado develops so if a sky spotter sees the cloud features that are typical before a tornado forms, they can help us get the tornado warning out with more lead time."

Tonight's class will be held at the Alumni Assembly Hall at the Inn at Virginia Tech from 6-8 p.m. There's no registration required and it's free to attend.

Future Classes:

Speedwell: April 6 from 6-8 p.m. at the Speedwell Volunteer Fire Department

Lynchburg: April 25 from 6-8 p.m. at the Lynchburg Emergency Operations Center

Danville: April 26 from 6-8 p.m. at the DCC Regional Center for Advance Technology and Training

Salem: April 27 from 6-8 p.m. at the Regional Training Center

You can also get certified online, click here for more details.