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Volunteers vital to Weather Service during severe storms

5:29 AM, Apr 11, 2013   |    comments
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With the forecast calling for possible severe weather Thursday, the National Weather Service expects to call on its team of weather spotters.

They include Roane County ham radio operator Phil Newman. For 16 years, Newman has communicated to fellow operators around the region and the world.

That expertise comes in handy during severe weather, especially since Newman is a trained volunteer weather spotter for the National Weather Service's Skywarn program.

"Many times touchdowns or reports of damage do come from weather spotters," Newman said.

Meteorologists depend on the spotters to see what radar can't: a view of what's actually happening on the ground as a storm strikes.

NWS offers free classes at locations around East Tennessee.

"They give us the criteria they're looking for with clouds or hail, different things we should look for in severe weather," Newman said.

The NWS is always looking for new volunteers, and you don't necessarily need any prior training.

The next class is at 7:00 p.m. Thursday at the Roane County Rescue Squad station at 2735 Roane State Highway in Harriman. Anyone interested in spotter training is invited.

"We even have some teenagers and school kids who are science minded and weather minded who might be future meteorologists," Newman said.

The NWS offers more information about the Skywarn spotter program on its web site.

Prospective ham radio operators can also learn more about the craft by contacting the Roane County Amateur Radio Club, of which Newman is president.

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