In March 26 IssueBy Derek AaronNews-Register Editor
With more than 60 people in attendance, the 16th annual Russell County Emergency Management and WJRS 104.9 FM severe storm spotter class took place Monday night at the Russell County Courthouse, according to H.M. Bottom, the county's emergency management director.
The two-hour session trained locals to be official sources for the National Weather Service as Meteorologist Joe Sullivan came down from Louisville's NWS center to present the weather information to the crowd.
Sullivan said the mission of the National Weather Service was to protect lives and property and he began the evening speaking on severe storm and tornado safety.
Specifically he talked about the difference between a severe storm watch and a severe storm warning, an issue that seems to cause folks a lot of problems. He noted that a watch means conditions are favorable for severe weather to occur and are issued for several hours and for a large area while a severe storm warning means severe weather is occurring or imminent. Warnings are typically issued for 30-45 minutes and only for a particular storm or line of storms. Warnings are issued when severe weather has been reported or when radar indicates severe potential within minutes, Sullivan said.
Sullivan also talked about what to observe for as far as cloud formations and the different types of clouds that make up supercell thunderstorms.
"You always need to pay attention and respect every single thunderstorm," he said.
Perhaps the most interesting portion of the night for those in attendance was the talk of tornadoes and hail. Sullivan showed various clips of tornadoes in action and talked of what to do to save you and your family in the event of a severe storm including a tornado. The class also included information on wind damage, hail, flooding and winter storms.
With Russell County having been under a tornado warning earlier this month, Sullivan's talk of tornado safety led many folks to ask questions about the violent storms and Sullivan obliged with answers, tips and video of the twisters.
Sullivan also spoke of how to stay safe during flash flooding, and how to contact the NWS in case of a storm.
He gave the audience a spotter line number, 1-800-292-5588, to contact in the event of a storm. By calling the National Weather Service in Louisville at that number, spotters can tell the NWS about damage on the ground and various other things they can't see by just monitoring radar.
He also said anyone could become an "espotter" by signing up at espotter.weather.gov or could become a volunteer precipitation observer at cocorahs.org. Anyone with storm photos or videos are also encouraged to email them to email@example.com
He told the crowd they could visit the NWS website at weather.gov for complete weather information for Kentucky and the entire United States.
Following Sullivan's two-hour session, Bottom said he was happy with the turnout for this year's program as every year he worries about attendance but Russell Countians always come through and attend.
He also thanked Sullivan for making the trip down to Louisville to speak with the crowd about severe weather, weather spotting and safety.
Bottom said local emergency management has partnered with WJRS since the very beginning of the spotter classes in Russell County, 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 received their own storm spotter number, which the weather service uses to identify them when they call in to report severe weather.
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.
The sponsor's for this year's spotter class were First National Bank, Lake Cumberland Feed and Supply, Ace Hardware, Lawless and Smith Supply, Toe Joe's Pawn Shop and 5th district constable, WJRS/WJKY, Lake Cumberland Community Action Agency, Russell County Emergency Management and the Times Journal and Russell County News-Register.