OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Spring is just around the corner, and with it comes thunderstorms. When they roll in, what do you do? If your first instinct is to head out to the front porch, then the National Weather Service (NWS) is looking for your help!
Registration is now open for the annual weather spotter training for residents in West Michigan.
When severe weather comes to town, the NWS is in charge of issuing life-saving warnings if necessary.
"And part of that process includes weather spotters providing us ground truth for what is happening underneath the radar," said Jim Maczko, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for NWS Grand Rapids.
Weather spotters are people in the community that are trained to help give reports of what is happening during severe weather. Maczko said this information plays a crucial role in identifying the severity and locations affected by storms.
"Our radar certainly shows us what weather there is out there," he said, "but it still only shows us what's going on above the ground. Weather spotters are on the ground where that weather is actually occurring."
Maczo said weather spotters can help the NWS issue more timely and more accurate weather warnings.
The one-hour training is offered every spring, and is free to register for anyone in the community. Plus, there are four different days to choose from this year and they are all virtual.
"Our weather spotter training generally teaches some weather safety preparedness, which is the most important thing for us," said Maczko, "but it also teaches our spotters what to report, when to report and how to report."
Maczko emphasized that the safety of the volunteers is their top priority.
"We don't want people running out trying to find severe weather," he said. "We want them to report right from their locations."
Maczko also said that volunteers are especially helpful in communities along the lakeshore.
"As the storms come across Lake Michigan, Ottawa County is first to get those storms," he explained, "and those reports from all along the coast can help us issue warnings for the counties all the way across the state."
"The more trained folks we can have in more locations across the area," added Maczko, "the more eyes we can get on weather coming to shore from Lake Michigan."
The four trainings being offered by the Grand Rapids NWS are on the following dates:
7 p.m. — Thursday, March 17 - All of Southwest and South Central Lower Michigan
7 p.m. — Friday, March 18 - Grand Rapids/Holland Area
7 p.m. — Tuesday, March 29 - Battle Creek/Kalamazoo Area
7 p.m. — Wednesday, March 30 - Lansing/Jackson Area
Attendance is free but registration is required. You can register online by clicking here.
According to the NWS, this training is recommended for ages 14 and older. Training is not community specific, but there will be a historical weather emphasis on the area specified in the schedule.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.
Have a news tip? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit our Facebook page or Twitter. Subscribe to our YouTube channel.