In March 5 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
The annual Russell County Emergency Management and WJRS 104.9 FM severe storm spotter class is scheduled for Thursday, March 5, at 7 p.m. in the circuit courtroom of the Russell County Courthouse to train locals to be official sources for the National Weather Service.
Russell County Emergency Management Director H.M. Bottom said a meteorologist from the National Weather Service would be the class instructor and that everyone is invited to attend.
"What it mainly consists of is what to observe for as far as cloud formations and any other severe weather when the conditions are right," Bottom said.
"We're usually shown films of previous disasters that coincides with the class itself," he said.
Bottom said the class generally lasted around two hours with an intermission about midway through the instructional time. He also said door prizes would be given away at the class.
"Attendance usually ranges between 60 and 80 people and that's really good for a spotter class," he said. "While everyone is welcome, there is training there as far as emergency personnel."
Bottom said he expected a large turnout again this year as the area has already seen severe weather roll through the just last month.
"We've already been under one tornado warning this year, which is very rare," he said. "Usually March and April are your severe tornado months, but now it is all changing and can happen in any month of the year."
He said local emergency management has partnered with WJRS since the very beginning of the spotter classes in Russell County more than 16 years ago, helping hundreds receive the training they needed to be official severe weather spotters for the National Weather Service.
Severe weather spotters can provide the credibility to what the National Weather Service sees on radar and acts as an extension of the service in the field.
After the class, each participant receives their own storm spotter number, which the weather service uses to identify them when they call in to report severe weather, according to the weather service.
The class generally also includes tips on how to stay safe in the event of severe weather and the plans that must be in place as well as tornadoes, wind damage, hail, flooding and winter storms.
According to the National Weather Service, severe weather spotting classes began in the 1950's but didn't become popular until the 1970's, when a series of severe storms across the nation enticed people to take part.
Bottom also reminded that this week is Severe Weather Awareness Week. This week is observed nationwide every March as a reminder to people of the potential danger of severe weather.
The annual observance coincides with the increased frequency of tornadoes and storms typically experienced in the spring, according to the National Weather Service.
All county schools participated in tornado drills on Tuesday in preparation of severe weather, according to Bottom.