Ranks of storm spotters grow

By JULIE MURPHY, Staff Writer
The Daytona Beach News-Journal

BUNNELL — Trained storm spotters serve as the local eyes for the National Weather Service, and Flagler County has more of them than any other county in the state.

At the end of Monday night’s Skywarn class, the county could tout another 50 added to the number of “advanced” storm spotters, which already tops 1,000, said Bob Pickering, emergency management technician for Flagler County.

“We’re teaching you to be storm spotters and not storm chasers,” said meteorologist Angie Enyedi from the National Weather Service in Jacksonville, who taught the class. “When you start seeing S shapes, you know there is a ‘hook’ which may be the start of a (thunderstorm) watch.”

A formation on radar called “hook echo” shows the beginning of a rotation that could turn into a tornado.

Enyedi’s microburst of information covered everything from cloud formations to thunderstorm development to visual predictions.

“Warnings for thunderstorms are only issued for hail or winds of 58 mph or more,” Enyedi said. “We don’t issue warnings for lightning, because there is lightning with every storm.”

However, lightning is the cause of more deaths in the United States than tornadoes and hurricanes, she said.

“Lightning is the completion of an electrical circuit in the atmosphere,” Enyedi said. “If you are close enough to hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.”

Lightning happens when the negative charges (electrons) in the bottom of a cloud are attracted to the positive charges (protons) in the ground, she said.

The rule is: when thunder roars, go indoors.

Advanced as technology is, Doppler Radar has a “cone of silence,” an area where it cannot detect what is happening.

“This is why we have people like you to help us,” Enyedi said.

Besides reporting actual and potential storm activity, trained storm spotters also report damage.

“Rotation may have been detected, but we don’t know if anything has actually touched down if we don’t a damage report to confirm it,” she said.

Eddie Cail, who took Monday’s class, takes a class at least once a year.

“I take the Skywarn program very seriously,” he said. “Technology is great but it’s limited. I like to have a refresher, because I only want to report accurate information.”

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