Free courses offered to anyone interested in becoming a storm spotter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Storm spotters play a vital role during severe weather.

Free spotter courses are offered to anyone interested, and with a little bit of training you could be the difference in saving lives.

We visited a storm spotter class where those who attended learned what it takes.

When active weather rolls through the area, meteorologists rely on storm spotters to complete the weather story. 

"We've got a great radar, we've got satellite, a lot of great tools, but one of the best tools that we can have is actual human eyes and ears out in the field," said Dan Hawplitzel, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill, Missouri.

Hawplitzel hosted the training class. 

This course is free and runs during severe weather season for anyone who is interested in becoming a storm spotter.

"We get people who are scared of storms, and this is their way of learning about it more and this helps comfort them to be on top of things, and we get the storm experts and storm chasers and people who are the enthusiasts and we welcome everyone,” Hawplitzel said.

Some of those weather enthusiasts may attend the class because of their excitement for storms, like 8-year-old Isaac Eepriest from Platte County, while others may attend because of their personal experiences. 

"Actually I was hit by the tornado in Smithville a few weeks ago, and I had my weather station and it recorded wind speeds of 124 mph. So I want to refresh the course and get more involved and be more active in this process,” said Gary Hamm.

Hamm was in the path of the EF-2 tornado that ripped through Smithville, Missouri on March 6. 

Spotters play a crucial role during severe weather. They can see the storms from the field, report their findings, and help meteorologists in getting the warnings out, which in the end saves lives.

This relationship was very important during the March 6 severe weather outbreak. 

Hawplitzel said the March 6 tornadoes, "that was one of those rare situations where the tornadoes actually developed near the ground and developed up...so it was reports that we were getting from the field that were critical in getting the warnings out." 

Increasing the network of storm spotters around the Kansas City area means more detail on the ground and keeping you safe at home. 

Hawplitzel is a big advocate of this program. 

"The more of those that we can get, the more partnerships we can build out in the community the better we can serve our community,” Hawplitzel said.

If you're interested, storm spotting classes are offered each year between late winter and early spring. You can also storm spot for our 41 Weather Team any time by sending your reports and pictures to our Twitter and Facebook pages. Happy spotting!

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