The National Weather Service is looking for more eyes and ears in Iowa to help pinpoint dangerous and developing weather events. The agency is recruiting severe weather spotters through free training sessions that start this week. Jeff Johnson, the Weather Service’s warning coordination meteorologist, says the volunteer spotters are a vital link in the timely, accurate flow of weather information.

Johnson says many spotters work with their county emergency management officials, reporting back to law enforcement centers, or using amateur radio operators who report weather events to the county or directly to the National Weather Service. He says it’s not easy to be a spotter, but for people who are fascinated by the always-changing weather around us, the all-volunteer job becomes a true passion.

Johnson says it’s difficult and to really have any luck at all being a spotter you need to know what you’re doing and the best way to learn is by going to one of these talks. He says it may take several talks before the material can be retained but it will eventually click.

Johnson says Iowans should -not- get the idea they’re being trained to be tornado-chasers. He says the emphasis is on safety and people shouldn’t just go out and observe without the specialized training. The training sessions are being held in virtually every county statewide in the coming weeks, with courses planned this week in: Waverly, Oskaloosa, Bloomfield and Allison.