‘Enhanced’ weather watchers wanted

JOHNSTOWN — Calling all severe weather watchers!

The National Weather Service in Albany next week will be conducting a free, volunteer Skywarn training program to recruit “enhanced” severe weather spotters.

The roughly 90-minute event will start at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Fulton County Services Complex’s Emergency Operations Center. The center is located on Route 29 near the Highway Department — below and behind the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department building.

“Registration is required,” National Weather Service forecaster Brian Montgomery said Tuesday. “It is open to the public for anyone interested in learning about severe weather.”

Skywarn is a volunteer program with nearly 290,000 trained severe weather spotters nationwide. According to the National Weather Service in Albany Facebook page, these volunteers “help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports” of seasonal weather to the National Weather Service, or the NWS.

Skywarn is a nationwide network of volunteer weather spotters who report to and are trained by the NWS. These spotters report many forms of significant or severe weather such as severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail, heavy snow, and flooding.

People can register for the April 18 session on the NWS Albany Facebook page. Questions can be directed to: [email protected]

Montgomery said these training sessions are held in various counties — twice a year — and this is Fulton County’s opportunity.

He said a professional meteorologist will be present Wednesday to recruit weather spotters. Participants will learn about: hazardous weather events and climatology, weather spotting and forecasting criteria, meteorological outlooks, and how to report your information.

“We do usually train 200 to 500 people each spring,” Montgomery said.

Other training sessions conducted by the NWS in Albany this month are being conducted in Washington and Warren counties, as well as in Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The staff at NWS Forecast Office in Albany is responsible for issuing local forecasts and severe weather warnings for much of eastern New York, southern Vermont, the Berkshires of western Massachusetts and Litchfield County, Conn.

The NWS Albany Facebook page states: “Skywarn spotters provide an invaluable service by providing ground truth so we can correlate what is seen on radar to what is actually occurring, help warn downstream communities, add value to our statements and warnings, and to verify forecasts and warnings. Spotters act as our eyes and ears helping us provide better services.”

According to the Facebook page, safety is the “top priority” for the Skywarn Weather Spotter program. The NWS does not encourage its Skywarn weather spotters to engage in storm chasing. However, the NWS does recognize that Skywarn spotters, engaged in mobile activities, may encounter severe weather and should be alert to rapidly changing weather conditions that could impact personal safety.

The spotter network is usually activated whenever there is a threat of severe weather, this is usually preceded by the issuance of a: severe thunderstorm watch, tornado watch, flood watch or some other type of watch. Spotters are asked to report any occurrence of severe weather to Skywarn or directly to the NWS.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Kerry Minor

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