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National Weather Service looking for weather spotters

When dealing with rural areas, the National Weather Service does not have all the technology staff in place to accurately report the weather on their own in towns outside of major cities.

One way the weather service deals with such issues is by enlisting the help of amateur weather spotters.

Weather spotters help on a volunteer basis and are a vital link in the timely and accurate flow of weather information into and out of weather forecast offices, according to the National Weather Service.

“Having spotters in rural areas is very important because a lot of times we just don’t have observations on the ground to measure precipitation or wind,” said Andy Gorelow, National Weather Service meteorologist. “Having a reliable spotter to give us information can be crucial on whether or not we issue a warning based on what we see compared to what is actually occurring.”

If you have dreams of becoming a weatherman, you have a chance to fulfill those dreams on a small scale.

The weather service is holding a series of weather spotter recruiting events each year and this year the series is dubbed, Skywarn Tour 2016, which will stop in nine locations in the west, including Tecopa and Amargosa Valley.

“Every year we hold spotter training classes in spring,” Gorelow said. “Typically these classes are held during that time of the year because it leads right into summer, which are typically our most active weather months and it’s fresh in peoples’ minds. Almost every NWS office around the country will hold their spotter training classes this time of year.”

Tecopa will have their event on April 13 at the Tecopa Community Center, located at 400 Tecopa Hot Springs Road, from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m., while Amargosa Valley will have theirs on April 19 at the Amargosa Valley Community Center, located at 821 E. Farm Road from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Gorelow said there are about 800 weather spotters in their forecast area, which includes parts of Arizona, Nevada and California, with some of them volunteering for 15 years.

Gorelow explained that although spotters are in place in larger cities like Las Vegas, they serve more of a vital role in less populated areas.

“In places like Las Vegas we have plenty of ground observations and we have plenty of social media posts to help us determine what’s going on,” he said. “The smaller communities don’t have those. There have been many times that a warning was issued based on the observation of a trained weather spotter.”

For more information on the National Weather Service’s weather spotter program log on to www.wrh.noaa.gov/vef/skywarn.php.

Contact reporter Mick Akers at makers@pvtimes.com. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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