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Front Page » June 27, 2006 » Local News » Weather watchers wanted
Published 2,949 days ago

Weather watchers wanted


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By PATSY STODDARD
Editor

Lightning can be fascinating, but dangerous to onlookers.

Do you find weather fascinating? Are you the kind of person who watches storms out in the rain and doesn't seek shelter at the first sign of a rain drop?

You might be just the person the local emergency planning committee is looking for. Presenters from the National Weather Service recently brought weather spotter training to Emery County and they will return again if needed and more people wish to be trained.

Kevin Barjenbruch said, "The weather service is here to protect and enhance the economy which is why we developed the Storm Ready program. Weather related disasters are a major cause of injuries each year. Tornadoes, floods and other weather related incidents cause $14 billion in property damage yearly. We work to save lives and prepare communities for disaster. Floods, fires, winter storms, flash floods, anything weather related we gather information on and get it out to the public. There are at least 70 fatalities each year from tornadoes and $5 billion property damage on average. The latest estimates for the hurricane damage from Katrina is $125 billion. Quick responses saves $3 billion each year. Lightning is one of the top three in weather related deaths.

Winter storm warnings are important information to airports who experience flight delays and revenue loss from snow delays.

"Storm Ready helps improve communities and save lives and property. Storm Ready communities in Utah include Salt Lake, Millard County, San Juan County and Tooele County. Getting communities ready can by approached from a county or a city level. There are six guidelines in becoming Storm Ready. The first is establishing communications. Real time weather information is very important. A system is needed to get the information out about the hazard. Radio, TV, ham radio, weather information will be broadcast on the local channels. It's very important to get the information to the public. Radios are placed in key areas in a community. The schools, courthouses, city hall, law enforcement, libraries, etc. Each community will have an evacuation signal. Sirens are used in some communities. Community weather spotters are educated in the procedures for calling in a weather incident.

"Each community must complete an application process. The application will be evaluated to determine if all the procedures are in place. A county receives special recognition for becoming Storm Ready. A community is renewed every three years. The renewal process is not as extensive as the first application. The website is stormready.noah.gov

"There is a real success story from Ohio. A F-4 tornado was imminent and the warning system with 70 radios in the community issued the warnings. A movie theatre with families attending the movie received the warning and moved the people to a safer area. The entire theatre was destroyed, but because the people had been alerted there weren't any injuries. A proper response saved lives.

"Many communities have much of the infrastructure needed in place already. The radios are fairly inexpensive only $30-$40 each," said Barjenbruch.

If you would like to become involved in the emergency warning system, let Sgt. Martin Wilson from the Emery County Sheriff's Office know if you would like a warning radio in your business, school, etc.

Weather spotters are trained to watch the clouds and know which formations present a real danger and those that aren't as harmful. Weather spotters are cautioned to keep themselves safe. Reports from on the scene spotters are really important to the weather service. A spotter can say there is flooding going on and people can be alerted and action taken. Spotters are important for thunder storms. They watch the conditions and issue warnings if storms have developed into severe weather and danger is imminent.

This fire in central Utah results in a pyrocumulous cloud.

Each area is evaluated for the weather situations they are most at risk for. In the desert areas, flash flooding is a real problem. Water can flow over highways and streets and there is always a chance for dam failure from flooding. Low impact flooding is a nuisance, but flash flooding necessitates a move to higher ground. Weather spotters tell who, what, where, when and must be specific with locations, they are told not to assume the weather service knows what's going on.

Storms are given ratings according to their severity. F4-F5 are the strongest of tornadoes and 70 percent of the deaths from tornadoes occur from them.

Utah is considered a weak center for tornadoes. A F-2 tornado hit Salt Lake and Manti and a F-3 tornado occurred in the Uintahs.

When a thunderstorm develops it forms an updraft and rain falls out of the storm causing a down draft, this type of storm is dissipating. A mature stage storm has large hail stones and a life cycle of such a storm could be 20-30 minutes. Super cells are more severe weather and more common in the plains states. A couple of times a year a severe cell will pass over the San Rafael Swell.

Different types of storms may develop. Some might have an overshooting top with damaging winds and large hail.

Shelf clouds are low level horizontal wedges with wind, rain and hail and damage may occur from the strong winds.

Downbursts from storms causes air to rush to the surface and straight-line winds can be in excess of 100 mph. The Beaufort scale measures wind speed. Wind safety tips are also available on the weather service website and they include staying away from windows, going to the lowest spot possible, keeping a firm grip, parking your vehicle to face the wind to keep it from being rolled side to side.

The weather center is always interested in the size of hail. Measure the hail from one side to another. In a severe hail storm remain in your vehicle, if outside cover your head and find a structure.

A weather spotter spotted the Manti tornado and was able to issue helpful reports to the weather service. A tornado occurs when the circulation reaches the surface. Rotating wall clouds can produce tornadoes. The availability of moisture leads to the formation of tornadoes. Dryer climates don't produce as many tornadoes. F-4 tornadoes can have winds of 250 mph and cause excessive damage.

Weather spotting at night can be dangerous.

People need to be taught to respect the power of water. Two feet of rushing water can sweep a vehicle away. Turn around when a roadway is flooded.

There is much to learn about weather and weather spotting. If you are interested in becoming involved contact Sgt. Wilson at 381-2404.


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