There may still be snow on the ground, but the National Weather Service wants Iowans to start thinking about severe weather in the spring and summer. Each year meteorologists travel the state to provide training courses for people who want to be storm spotters. Meteorologist John Hinsberger says all the technology they have available doesn’t replace a person watching severe weather at the source.

Hinsberger says they present spotter training because they need people out in the field to be the weather service’s eyes and ears. Doppler radar can show rotation in a storm but only people can tell them whether they see tornadoes forming or how large the hail is hitting the ground. Hinsberger says spotters will be shown plenty of examples of severe weather situations during the class.

He says there are several videos included in the presentation that show very interesting weather phenomena that spotters will be able to detect and report if they see something similar. Hinsberger says there won’t be a test to take at the end of the nearly two-hour session, but people will come away with a better understanding about severe weather.

He says it’s a lot of information packed in and people might be informally quizzed about a few things, but there’s no exam to pass or fail. Hinsberger says they can never have enough spotters to help out, especially in the state’s non-urban areas. He says they’d like to see more rural spotters since they have a bigger data gap in between cities and anything they can get to “fill in the picture” will give meteorologists a better idea of what to do on their end. More than 50 spotter training courses are planned statewide over the next several weeks. Find the one nearest to you at: ““.

By Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City