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FCEM holds ‘storm spotter’ training session

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Franklin County Emergency Management held a “storm spotter” training session Thursday, March 22, at Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus, drawing 65 people interested in learning more about how severe weather is detected.

Ed Calianese with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Tulsa, Okla., spoke to the crowd, which included Ozark Mayor Carol Sneath, first responders from throughout the region and members of the public.

He discussed three major features of being a storm spotter, an observer that actively maintains a visual watch of the development and progression of specific weather events while actively relaying important information to local agencies.

The first feature was understanding the role of the spotter and the importance of relaying accurate reports to the NWS. The second was understanding the structure of storms and “various other related features you see in the field.” The final one was learning to safely observe those features from the proper vantage point.

Calianese said the meeting was the “largest turnout in Ozark that I can remember.”

Also discussed was a transition by weather services to dual polarization radar systems, which are “going to allow us to see things we don’t currently see in storms … it will give us a much better idea of what we’re looking at,” he said, adding that the upgrades will have taken place in Arkansas and Oklahoma by the end of 2012.

Calianese presented the crowd with data collected from the May 25, 2011, EF-4 tornado that wreaked havoc in Franklin and Johnson counties, killing five people in Etna and Denning. (Pictured is a radar image of the storm system.)

He said both Arkansas and Oklahoma experienced record tornado numbers in 2011. Arkansas, which averages 26 tornados per year, saw 75. In all, 12 people were killed.

Referring to the tornado that hit Etna and Denning, Calianese said, “That was by far the worst tornado of the bunch.”