An estimated 150 potential severe weather spotters gathered
at Melvern Community Center last week to learn about weather safety
and storm spotting techniques, under the guidance of National
Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Chad Omitt.
Wayne White | Managing Editor
MELVERN—It’s clear to see that weather affects everyone.
Osage County citizens’ interest in the weather was evident
as Melvern’s community building filled to capacity for weather
spotter training March 2. The scheduling of the training coincided
with Kansas Severe Weather Awareness Week, observed this week
with a planned statewide tornado drill and presentation of weather
With the crowd estimated at 150 at last week’s training,
National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Chad
Omitt and WIBW chief meteorologist Jeremy Goodwin explained the
role of weather spotters and safety measures everyone should be
aware of during storms.
Goodwin described weather spotters, mainly ordinary citizens who
have learned about weather conditions, as “most valuable.”
“They keep their neighbors and community safe,” Goodwin
He said more trained weather spotters are always needed and appreciated.
“Don’t assume that Dopler radar sees this funnel cloud
right above your house,” he said.
Omitt agreed that weather spotters must work with expert meteorologists
to keep the public notified of dangerous weather conditions.
“Spotters are actually telling us what’s on the ground,”
Omitt said. “You might save lives of the people around you.”
Although not everyone takes time to learn about weather conditions,
Omitt said everyone should know safety and preparedness measures
in the event of severe storms.
While people are most frightened of tornadoes, Omitt said hail
causes the most injuries.
When it is hailing, Omitt said, people should stay indoors.
“Stay away from windows, stay away from glass,” he
He said flooding causes more fatalities than any other weather
“Most fatalities happen in vehicles,” he said. “Don’t
drive through flooded roads, especially at night. Turn around,
Omitt said the best way to deal with tornadoes is to have a plan
of action. He recommended people go to the basement or lowest
point in their home if a tornado is near. If a basement is not
available, an interior closet or small room with strong walls
would be the next best place to be. Those in mobile homes should
abandon them immediately. If in an automobile, a sturdy structure
or a ditch should be found. If neither is available, he recommended
buckling seat belts and staying below the window level in a vehicle.
“If there is any upside to a tornado, it’s that they’re
short and don’t last long,” he said.
To be prepared, everyone should have a plan and hold practice
drills, he said. Also, everyone should have several weather warning
sources, including weather radio, television, radio or cell phone
“Have a plan, practice a plan, have multiple warning sources,”
Omitt said that although tornado sirens could be one weather warning
source, they cannot always be heard indoors when severe weather
is passing through.
Omitt advised that one weather spotter training a year is not
enough to keep informed. He suggested all who are interested to
take several weather spotter trainings annually and research weather
conditions through sources such as www.weather.gov.
Trained weather spotters report their observations to the National
Weather Service, first by identifying themselves, stating their
location, the time of the event, and the type of condition that
satisfies the criteria for a severe storm, such as tornadoes,
funnel clouds, high-speed winds, hail and flash flooding.
Tuesday was originally planned as the date for a statewide tornado
drill, but due to predicted inclement weather that day, it was
rescheduled to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, March 10. The purpose of the
annual drill is to test everyone’s readiness for life threatening
severe weather events.
Every school, citizen and business is encouraged to participate
in the drill by practicing seeking secure, safe shelter from a
tornado. They are urged to treat the drill as if it were an actual
The Federal Communication Commission has granted a waiver to the
state of Kansas to use the Emergency Alert System for the tornado
drill. Weather radios set to receive the appropriate code will
activate during the test tornado warning. Local officials might
also sound warning sirens to initiate the drill.
To learn more information about local weather conditions and Severe
Weather Awareness Week, see http://www.weather.gov/top/.