National Weather Service to offer advanced storm spotter classes

01/12/2013 2:40 PM

01/12/2013 2:41 PM

For the first time since it began giving storm spotter training classes more than 50 years ago, the National Weather Service office in Wichita will offer advanced sessions this spring.

Think of it as Meteorology 201.

“It’s kind of a glimpse into our way of thinking,” said Robb Lawson, the weather service meteorologist who will present the classes in early April.

Basic storm spotter training classes in the Wichita coverage area spanning the southeast quarter of Kansas — dubbed “Storm Fury on the Plains” — begin Feb. 11 in Sedan. Another 27 classes presented by the weather service continue through early April.

Three sessions of the advanced class will be offered in April: April 3 in Salina, April 9 in Parsons and April 11 in Wichita.

Anyone wishing to attend the advanced class should go to the basic training session first, weather officials say.

The basic course will be offered in Newton on Feb. 28 at Lindley Hall of Santa Fe Middle School, in Wichita on March 5 at Northwest High School, and in El Dorado on March 9 at the Civic Center.

Adding the advanced course should help weather officials strike a better balance between educating and entertaining spotter class audiences, Lawson said.

“We struggle with that every year,” he said.

Focus too much on safety tips and educating crowds on how storms work and people complain that it was too boring. Lean too hard on light-hearted videos and anecdotes and people say the presentation didn’t teach them much.

Safety will remain a key component of this year’s basic presentation, Lawson said, but much of the science will be saved for the advanced presentation.

“We talk about supercells and rotating thunderstorms, but why is there rotation?” Lawson said.

“Why do supercells live longer than other storms? What makes them special and allows them to do that?”

Lawson said he wants to take a more detailed look at how tornadoes form, and he plans to use Kansas tornadoes in his course.

“I want to keep it local,” he said. “We have so many tornadoes here, I figure, ‘Let’s talk about tornadoes we talk about here.’ ”

The classes are free and open to the public. Lawson said he wasn’t sure how many people would come to the advanced sessions, but he’s optimistic.

“I know there are a lot of weather nerds out there,” he said.

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