Fort McCoy News April 26, 2013

Personnel train to spot severe weather

Weather aficionados, as well as those whose work can be affected by weather at Fort McCoy or in the surrounding communities, attended a Severe Weather Spotter Trainer course at Fort McCoy April 8.

Tim Halbach, a lead weather forecaster for the National Weather Service (NWS) office in La Crosse, was the presenter. Todd Shea, the warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS La Crosse office, said the training was held at Fort McCoy at the request of installation emergency management and fire department officials.

PHOTO for weather spotter article
Twenty-five people attended a weather-spotters class at Fort McCoy.
The class helped attendees identify inclement weather at this time
of year, such as tornadoes, high wind, hail, thunderstorms and
lightning.
Contributed photo

"It also gave us a chance to have training in Monroe County after all the hazardous weather from 2011, including reports of tornadoes in Sparta and Tomah," Shea said.

A total of 25 personnel attended, including residents of Monroe and Juneau counties.

Tim Jorgensen, an assistant Fort McCoy fire chief, said he attended the training to help learn about the weather events that might occur at this time of year, such as tornadoes, high wind, hail, thunderstorms, lightning and other inclement weather.

"If we see something when we're out on a call or in our daily routines that indicates storms, we can report what we are seeing," Jorgensen said. "It helps the National Weather Service know what's happening in the communities so they can get out the most complete weather information possible."

Dave Butler, also an assistant fire chief for Fort McCoy, said eye-witness accounts can be relayed to the installation warning system. Spotting a funnel cloud, for example, may mean a tornado might be on the ground, which occurred in Sparta several years ago.

"We can pass the information to the right people to help coordinate sounding the emergency sirens system or sending out emergency notification," Butler said. "It gives you the jump on advising people to take shelter or evacuate (from the field)."

Having people from other communities involved in the process also helps coordination efforts and helps Fort McCoy support the concept of the Army Community Covenant to assist its neighbors and the surrounding communities, he said.

Storms typically travel from west to east. A storm likely would be noticed first in La Crosse County before it moves east toward

Monroe County. Butler said weather reports from La Crosse County can help inform Monroe County, including Fort McCoy, about weather systems that might be coming this way.

"In turn, we can report the weather systems happening at Fort McCoy and in Monroe County, which can help inform the people in Wood and Adams counties what is coming their way," Butler said.

"This provides a complete track of the storm and helps the National Weather Service pull all of the information together and pass it on to us. It helps us all work together as a team and helps ensure we all stay safe."

Shea said storm spotters provide the NWS with real-time weather observations that allow the organization to issue more-accurate and timely inclement-weather warnings.

Additional information about the process or classes is available at www.crh.noaa.gov/arx/?n=skywarn_schedule or www.crh.noaa.gov/arx/?n=skywarnfaq.

Weather information also is available on NWS weather radio transmissions, which can be heard on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radios or scanners. More information including frequencies is accessible at www.crh.noaa.gov/arx/?n=nwr.

Current weather information, including maps and radar, is available for U.S. locations at the website www.weather.gov.