I could care less whether or not Phil sees his shadow on Groundhog Day tomorrow, however, it did get me to thinking about the weather and reminded me to mention something else that has become very dear to my heart. A couple of years ago, I became a volunteer Weather Spotter.
What most people think when they hear “weather spotter” is someone running around in a car chasing storms, i.e. what’s commonly called a storm chaser, but that’s not what I do or have even been trained for. Oh, it’s true that the Weather Service does offer elite training for what they call mobile spotters and there certainly are people crazy enough to get out there and chase storms, but here’s the thing – mobile spotting is only truly useful in areas that have a lot of very flat land because otherwise it’s difficult to see over distances far enough to judge what’s actually happening with the clouds. (And who wants to run around checking the roads in the middle of the winter if they don’t have to? o.O)
Besides which we don’t have all that much flat land in our area because we have a lot of hills and trees in our county. Heck, Kentucky and Tennessee aren’t known as hillbilly states for no reason, people, and I don’t even live in that part of the state. I live in the supposedly flatter western part. Heh Yes, certain parts of both states are extremely flat close to the Mississippi but others? No way could mobile be remotely helpful.
So, instead, the basic to advanced spotter training is geared for point spotting, i.e. being the eyes and ears of the Weather Service on the ground from wherever one might be, both before, during and after bad weather and during all seasons. Because, yes, trained spotters also report on winter weather conditions as well as summer – from what’s coming down from the sky to what the road conditions are and all kinds of stuff like that.
In particular, though, I would highly recommend the spotter training to anyone who lives east/southeast of the Mississippi for one simple reason – it could one day save their lives. Seriously. Nothing says one has to become an active spotter. The training itself can simply be to help them become better prepared in their own home or business.
Why? Well, what most people do not realize is that in Tornado Alley in the plain states the massive twisters generally form in the afternoon but over here on the other side of the big river we tend to get the aftereffects of those same storm systems in the middle of the night when people are generally asleep and not paying attention to the TV, radios, or any other warning systems. Any tornadoes and severe storms we get then might be relatively smaller but any combination of nighttime and severe weather can be deadly if no one is paying attention or prepared.
And we get these storms pretty much year round, too. Winter weather? What winter weather. This year alone we’ve had almost zero snow and already had two rounds of tornado watches and warnings. In January. November and December are normally our rainy, flood months. You know when we’re most likely to get the most snow? February maybe, but most likely March. Never fails.
Unless we don’t get any snow at all and all we get are severe storms right on through spring into summer.
Hence the Weather Service in recent years has been promoting spotter training in our region as something everyone should consider taking and it can even be taken online. All in all, it’s simply about being more knowledgeable about what’s going on. Weather happens everywhere and it doesn’t take a tornado or hurricane to cause major problems or damage. So, anyone who’s ever been interested in or even worried about the weather, check out the training. Knowledge and preparation saves lives.