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National Weather Service is looking to train future storm spotters

Tropical Weather
Wilfredo Le
/
AP
A normally bustling Ocean Drive is shown during a downpour, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. A strengthening Tropical Storm Eta cut across Cuba that day.

Tracking the weather is not just for meteorologists. South Floridians with an interest in tracking weather patterns have the chance to sign up for a free storm spotting class.

Every year, the National Weather Service teaches hundreds of people from Naples to West Palm Beach on how to identify specific weather hazards through its SKYWARN program.

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Robert Molleda is a warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS. He said people do not have to be a scientist to be a storm spotter.

"It's a great example of citizen science without getting too technical," he said. "It's just using your senses, your eyes, your ears ... to report real time weather information that could really help save lives."

Reports from storm spotters can help meteorologists improve their forecasting and data collection. Molleda said real time reporting coupled with Doppler radar technology creates more accurate public weather alerts.

"Spotters give us ground truth," Molleda said. "They give us validation that that event that we issued the warning for is actually occurring."

During training sessions, attendees will also learn how to report information. Storm spotters will be given access to a private phone line, so they can report weather events to the NWS as they occur.

Storm spotting is not a new idea. The SKYWARN program dates back to the 1970s when the NWS took existing storm spotting programs and essentially grouped them together.

To find a full schedule of classes, you can visit SKYWARN's website here.

Alyssa Ramos is a multimedia producer for WLRN’s Morning Edition.