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Video: Weather spotter training moves to webinars, expanding reach

Apr 17, 2020 05:46AM ● By Editor

Watch the WDIO-TV Video Report here

Photo: WDIO-TV

By Brandon Weathers of WDIO-TV - April 17, 2020

When a thunderstorm develops, radar has limitations. It can tell us the potential a storm has to create flash flooding, damaging winds, and tornadoes, but ground observations are critical to understanding the threat a storm poses to people and property.

Duluth National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Moore said, "We need to know, did that storm produce one and a half inch hail? Because we want to make sure that the next community down the line knows what to expect." 

That's where the NWS's Skywarn program comes in. Each spring, volunteers attend free sessions where they learn how to apply a trained eye to the weather they observe and pass that information along.

"The more spotters we have, the better we can understand how these storms work, the better we can issue warnings to understand where the greatest threat is," Moore said.

But this spring, due to the pandemic, the traditional in-person training method must evolve. For the first time, they're only available online.

"I'm hoping that we can still reach the audience that we did, and hopefully expand that audience to new people," Moore said.

So far, that has been the case. The online course has been able to reach people who couldn't attend in person resulting in record participation.

"183 was awesome to see for our first talk," Moore said, "It looks like almost all of the webinars we have scheduled are climbing to 100 or over, so it's really exciting to see that kind of participation and that interest."

Moving forward, Moore thinks the webinars will stick. He believes a combination of the old and new methods will be the best way to continue the growth of the spotter network.

"We could never have enough spotters. We always want to see more and more people, especially from rural areas," Moore said, "You could be a great resource for us, and you might not even know it."

In addition to expanding their reach, the online platform has allowed the Duluth NWS to bring back advanced classes.

The schedule of classes can be found here. Anyone unable to attend an online course can reach out to the Duluth office and they will send a video of the recording.

To read the original article and see related weather reporting, follow this link to the WDIO-TV website.

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