The National Weather Service is looking for a few good weather watchers.
The agency is holding training sessions in Lucas and Wood counties next month for people interested in becoming SKYWARN weather spotters. Their main responsibility is to identify and describe severe local storms.
Brad Gilbert, director of the Wood County Emergency Management Agency, said even though the Weather Service "has the fanciest radar and satellite information available to them, it's still not as good as having things confirmed by people on the ground."
Gary Garnet, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Cleveland, concurred, saying, "Spotters are still needed to provide real-time weather information to meteorologists. Spotters provide real-time observations that technology may never be able to replace."
The information helps the Weather Service issue more accurate and timely warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and flash floods. Mr. Gilbert said the training is invaluable.
"One problem we have are a lot of false warnings out there," he said. "A lot of it is due to people not really knowing what they're looking at. They might think it's a wall cloud or a shelf cloud that is indicative of severe weather when a lot of times, it's just rain shafts."
Personnel from the National Weather Service will conduct a free training session for weather watchers in Wood County at the Central Joint Fire District station, 13179 Mermill Rd. near Portage at 6:30 p.m. March 9. The Lucas County session is set for 10 a.m. March 27 at the St. Luke's Hospital auditorium.
Mr. Gilbert said residents can attend either of the sessions, which last about two hours. Registration is not required.
Although the SKYWARN program tends to attract police, firefighters, and other first responders, the Weather Service encourages anyone who has a responsibility to protect others - people associated with hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and churches - and other concerned citizens to get involved.
Mr. Garnet said the Weather Service has 753 Lucas County residents and 604 Wood County residents trained as SKYWARN weather spotters.
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