POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — If you have an interest in weather conditions, coupled with a drive to provide community service, an upcoming SKYWARN class in Mason County might be for you.
Sponsored by the National Weather Service, the class will be 6:30 p.m. April 26 at the Mason County 911 Emergency Operations Center in Point Pleasant. The class will last approximately two hours and is free of charge.
According to the NWS website, SKYWARN is a volunteer program with between 350,000 and 400,000 trained severe weather spotters. They help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the NWS.
During the training class, participants will learn the basics of thunderstorm development, fundamentals of storm structure, identifying potential severe weather features, information to report, how to report information, and basic severe weather safety.
According to Matt Gregg, of the Mason County Office of Emergency Services, and who is also involved in the Mason County Amateur Radio Group and Amateur Radio Emergency Services, amateur radio plays a big part in the SKYWARN program due to the back-up communications.
“Basically, if the phone and electric are off, ham radio operators still have their radio communications,” Gregg said. “Just about every NWS office has a ham radio station and most all of the NWS staff are licensed ham operators.”
In addition to ham radio operators, other volunteers include police and fire personnel, dispatchers, EMS workers, public utility workers, and concerned private citizens, according to the NWS. Gregg said while everyone is invited to attend the training, ham operators and first responders are especially encouraged to attend.
According to the NWS website, since the program started in the 1970s, the information provided by SKYWARN spotters, coupled with Doppler radar technology, improved satellite and other data, has enabled the NWS to issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods. This information provides extra time that can help save lives.
Gregg said anyone wanting to attend the class is asked to register by calling 304-675-9911 or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County, W.Va.