Friday, April 09, 1999

Weather spotters aid forecasters

Boone class teaches the warning signs

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE — As a Union firefighter, Glenn Taylor usually sees the aftermath of severe storms in Northern Kentucky.

        But after a free weather spotter training class Thursday, Mr. Taylor said he'll be able to better identify severe storms before they happen.

        The class, sponsored by the Boone County emergency management office, was an effort to train citizens to be spotters for the National Weather Service.

        “The National Weather Service has a lot of new technology, the Doppler radar, but radar doesn't detect all storms,” said Mary Jo Parker, warning coordinator meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio. “It doesn't give the same information that eyewitness testimony can provide.”

        Mr. Taylor and about 20 others got a lesson in storm watching and what kinds of clouds and other formations mean severe weather.

        David Appleby, director of the county's emergency management office, said April through June is the worst time for severe weather in Northern Kentucky and when most tornadoes strike.

        But the severe weather season isn't just about tornadoes, Ms. Parker said.

        “A lot of people think most people die of tornadoes,” she said.

        The No.1 severe weather killer, however, is flooding. Lightning is second and tornadoes are third.

        But for Northern Kentuckians who aren't formally trained, there are plenty of signs to look for. Like skies that look pink or greenish.

        “That means hail is forming,” she said.

        Although the National Weather Service has been educating the public for years about the difference between a watch and a warning, some people get them confused, Ms. Parker said.

        “And these are very important to know,” she said.

        A watch means that conditions are favorable for severe weather to develop. It covers a period of six to 12 hours for many counties. A watch is a recommendation for planning and preparation.

        A warning indicates a particular weather hazard is imminent or has been reported. A warning lasts an hour or less for one county.

        The message is to take cover to protect life and property.

        “The main thing is if you hear that sound like a freight train or a jet engine,” Ms. Parker said. “Take cover. It could mean a tornado.”

        For more information about upcoming weather spotter training classes, check the National Weather Service's Wilmington, Ohio, office Web site at


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- Weather spotters aid forecasters