Training to be a severe weather spotter - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Training to be a severe weather spotter

DEFOREST (WKOW) -- People braved the rain and packed into the DeForest Library for severe weather spotter training.

"They're doing the dirty work, they're in the trenches," said Meteorologist Rusty Kapela of the National Weather Service. He ran the basic spotter training class.

Kapela says spotters are critical to warning people about severe storms. He says meteorologists use high tech models and doppler radars to track severe weather, but can't rely on technology alone.

"There are clues inside the cloud in the doppler radar, and it depicts that. But that doesn't guarantee that the tornado is below the cloud base so the spotters fill out the missing pieces," Kapela said.

For example, the tornado that hit Stougthon in 2005. Kapela said spotters reported it when it touched the ground.

"When a tornado has developed and its moving along, then we need information, where is the tornado, where is it going and doppler could be a mile or two off," he said.

The emphasis was of the spotter class was accuracy.

"The clouds, the difference between a shelf cloud to a wall cloud," said Brian Johnson, a weather spotter trainee who works with the DeForest Police Department.

"Not every cloud that looks scary is going to be a tornado, you need to look for rotation and everything going on," said weather spotter trainee Sue Brusveen.

Tim Shriver works with Midwest. A group of volunteer weather spotters that work with various agencies and emergency responders around the county.

He says knowing the difference between what looks like a tornado and what actually is, is critical because warnings come at a cost.

"When you put a report in, you put people in danger," Shriver said, "hospitals have to move patients to the basement, intensive care has to do things when they move, and the fire departments have to move equipment out of town."

Weather spotters also help after severe weather events.

They assess damage, which is used to determine how strong tornados like the one in Stoughton actually was.

That information is used by everyone from The National Weather Service to insurance companies.

There will be another free severe weather spotting class at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

That one is an advanced class, but everyone is welcome.

Its on Tuesday April 13th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.

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DEFOREST (WKOW) -- People will be learning how to be severe weather spotters in DeForest.

They're called spotters for a reason. Meteorologists depend on their eyes to see and report severe weather happening on the ground.

Meteorologists can see a big storm rotating in radars and models, but don't know if there is a tornado with it, until it touches the ground.

That's when the spotters come in. They call in the tornado in to the National Weather Service.

Then meteorologists put it on the air to warn the community.

People at the class will learn clues to look for when severe weather could happen and safety tips.

The class runs from 6pm to 8pm at the DeForest Area Public Library, 203 Library Street, Deforest, WI 53532

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