By Morgan Montalvo
As another heavy weather system approached San Antonio, volunteer weather observers last evening were refining their meteorological recognition and reporting skills in nearby Wilson County.
About 30 students from the La Vernia area, as well as San Antonio, learned about atmospheric conditions that spawn tornadoes and how to safely inform the National Weather Service of a twister's location and possible path. The class was the second part of the "Skywarn" series offered by the NWS.
Larry Hopper, an NWS meteorologist, says Skywarn classes give students detailed information on weather patterns, as well as how to identify and avoid dangerous weather situations. Hopper said the trained observer network is his agency's eyes and ears in the affected areas, and also assists local emergency planners with getting out the word when weather-related sheltering or evacuations are ordered.
"Our job relies on more than just looking at radar," said Hopper. "We take public reports very seriously."
He said the spotters contribute to "the big picture that we need in order to do our job and help protect life and property effectively."
Skywarn classes are usually attended by ham radio operators, Community Emergency Response Team members, and other trained volunteer responders, but also attract individuals eager to know what to do before severe weather strikes.
"You just never know what's going to happen, so the more educated we can get people, the better prepared they'll be to take care of themselves and their family and their neighbors," said Cindy Stafford with the Wilson County Office of Emergency Management.
Stafford says in addition to Skywarn classes, people interested in disaster readiness can attend classes or take online courses offered by the Texas Department of Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.