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Front Page » March 10, 2009 » Carbon County News » Emergency panel readies citizen spotters
Published 2,061 days ago

Emergency panel readies citizen spotters


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By C.J. MCMANUS
Sun Advocate community editor

Carbon County emergency planning officials want to inform the public concerning the importance of weather spotters.

On March 16, the local emergency planning committee will conduct a public meeting in the commissioners chambers to discuss community involvement in the invaluable service.

A spotter is a person who observes significant conditions and relays the information to the National Weather Service (NWS) or appropriate local authorities, based on the severity and immediate threat of the event, according to information provided by emergency planning personnel.

"Spotters provide an invaluable service to their communities and to the NWS. The information they provide helps their community by assisting local public safety officials in making critical decisions aimed at protecting lives and property," states the local press release.

"During life-threatening weather events such as tornadoes and flash flooding, these real-time reports from weather spotters are used to help warn others in their community, as well as those neighboring areas which may be in harm's way," continues the press release

According to the document, the reports from spotters help NWS forecasters in the critical decision-making process of determining what storms pose a potential risk to life and property.

The NWS uses the reports from storm spotters in combination with radar, satellite and automated surface observations when issuing severe thunderstorm, tornado, flash flood, winter storm and other types of warnings.

The spotter reports become part of the warning decision making process.

The accounts are combined with radar data and other information and used by the NWS forecasters to decide whether to:

•Issue a new warning.

•Cancel an existing warning.

•Continue a warning.

•Issue a warning for the next county.

•Change the warning type (from severe thunderstorm to tornado, for example)

In addition to being used in the warning decision making process by the NWS' forecasters, spotter reports also provide valuable information to people in the path of a potentially deadly storm, states the release.

Ground truth reports from spotters help to give credibility to the warnings issued by the NWS to those people who are in the path of a life threatening storm.

"This ground truth information helps motivate people in harm's way to take action to protect themselves and their property," explains the planning information. "At times, the NWS may call a spotter after a storm has passed, in order to inquire what conditions were like as the storm moved through."

The information explains that this documentation helps the NWS forecasters train for the next big event. Spotters are also always encouraged to take the initiative and call the NWS office with their information.

It is reported that Americans live in the most severe weather prone country on Earth. Each year, the United States copes with an average of 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,000 tornadoes and an average of 2 land falling deadly hurricanes. This coupled with winter storms, intense summer heat, high winds and other deadly weather makes it essential for communities to be ready for the impact of any type of weather

At the meeting, planning personnel will demonstrate how Carbon County can achieve better safety by using the NWS's StormReady program.

According to the release, 90 percent of all presidentially declared disasters are weather related, leading to around 500 deaths per year and nearly $14 billion in damage. StormReady was started in Tulsa, Okla. in 1999 and will be discussed further at the March meeting. To learn more please attend the public forum or check out the NWS' site at www.weather.gov/stormready/.

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