Thursday, March 24, 2011

Things I learned yesterday

Yesterday afternoon I went to the National Weather Service storm spotter training. They throw a lot of information at you in a short amount of time but I was happy to have remembered most of it from the first time.

One of the first things the presenter did was show a county map with red dots representing the location of each trained storm spotter. I had a dot!

Storm spotters are important to the National Weather Service because we are their "reality check," so to speak. Radar and other technologies give meteorologists a lot of information during a severe weather outbreak but spotters are the only ones who can tell them what's actually happening. Assuming we're not hiding in the basement.

The class was good to review the basics of severe thunderstorm structure. This year I was better at quickly identifying the updraft and downdraft areas, determining rotation, being able to tell which way a storm was moving and identifying "falsies" - things that are not what they appear to be. Of course, I think the pictures they chose for the training session were pretty obvious. From my limited experience in reality, it's not always that clear.

Here are some things I learned:

• We are currently in a La NiƱa weather pattern and can expect an active and intense severe weather year.

• Iowa ranks 4th in the nation in terms of the number of violent (EF4 and 5) tornadoes each year. (Holy crap. I'm going to the basement now.)

• As a rule, thunderstorms in Iowa move across the state from the west/southwest to the east/northeast. (Okay, I kinda already knew this.)

• The best place for spotter positioning is on the south/southeast side of storm.

• Supercell thunderstorms do not move in a straight line and tend to turn right about 30 degrees as they strengthen. (So if you're sitting south/southeast of one, PAY ATTENTION!)

• A bow echo on radar indicates the area of strongest wind on the leading edge of a storm.

• A hook echo on radar indicates a spot where tornado formation is likely.

• I should have called in to report the hail from Tuesday night's storm. I thought we were only supposed to report large hail but apparently the NWS wants to know about ANY hail as that helps them judge the storm's strength.

Since we're back into a below normal weather pattern (it's going to freaking SNOW tomorrow) for the next week, I don't think I'll get a chance to practice any time soon.


  1. Congrats on having a DOT!!! Glad it was a good learning experience. Did they go over the part about calling in from the basement?

  2. That sounds awesome! I love weather. When I lived in Oklahoma for a (very) short amount of time, I loved how frantic the weathermen got. This one man consistently used the term "juicy moisture". Maybe it's a regional thing.

    I have to say, I did enjoy the tornadoes - but then again, I wasn't ever hurt by one. I thought they were the coolest things ever, even when the radio says "and the tornado has just touched down at (insert the intersection where I was living) and is ravaging anything in its path."

    I'd totally be a storm spotter if I could. Congratulations!

    Oh, we had snow this morning too. I was NOT happy.