by Brian Manning
HURFANO — Eyes on the ground is what Tom Magnuson, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the US Weather Bureau in Pueblo, calls his volunteers. Officially, they are called Skywarn Weather Spotters.
They report information about weather conditions around the county, and Magnuson uses that information to determine if a severe weather warning is to be issued. The warnings are important to notify residents of impending weather, and the spotters are especially important this time of year since it is the beginning of the severe thunderstorm season. During the winter, a weather spotter’s role is to report snowfall amounts, freezing precipitation, high winds, and dense fog.
There are 29 spotters in Huerfano County who make observations about high winds, heavy snow, possible tornados and even the size of hailstones. These weather conditions cannot always be detected by radar so spotters provide a valuable service. To be a spotter, no experience or technical knowledge is necessary. The only equipment necessary is a ruler to measure hail size. An inexpensive rain gauge or wind measuring equipment is useful but not required.
These volunteers are trained by the Weather Bureau by attending a face-to-face class in various locations or by taking a class on the internet. By taking advantage of the online courses, they can learn whenever and wherever it is most convenient. The training teaches spotters about thunderstorm structure, which enables them to recognize cloud features and high winds that could be precursors to tornado development. Apparently, specific cloud structures and other clues around thunderstorms can signal tornadic development.
Severe weather watches mean conditions are right for this weather to develop and severe warnings mean that this weather has been reported in the area. A severe thunderstorm occurs if hail is more than quarter size or wind gust is more than 58 miles per hour or there is a sustained wind of 40 mph.
Safety is extremely important for spotters and they are told to never put themselves in danger by being outside during severe weather. They watch from inside and report activity.
Anyone who interested in becoming a trained Skywarn Spotter can contact Thomas Maguson at the Pueblo office by e-mail at Thomas.email@example.com or by phone at 719-948-9429 x726. The weather bureau has a website that gives information about current weather and spotter training at http://www.weather.gov/pueblo. Volunteer spotters perform a valuable service by helping their neighbors know when severe weather is approaching.
Huerfano County would be split between two house districts by Mark Craddock OUR WORLD — Largely because of its national implications in a U.S. Congress