The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 9, 2013

While Doppler radar is good, weather spotters are better, says NWS meteorologist

By Mary Duncan

JOPLIN, Mo. — Nearly two years after she lost her home to one of the worst tornadoes in U.S. history, Anna Sanderson wasn’t taking chances with the weather.

She signed up for a weather spotter class held last week at Missouri Southern State University. The class was sponsored by the Joplin/Jasper County Office of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service station in Springfield.

“I think it is not only important but vital for communities to be informed about tornadoes and severe weather,” said Sanderson, who lost her home in Joplin’s 2011 tornado. “Educated communities are better equipped to handle the pre-storm panic followed by the post-storm shock.

“Providing information about severe storms to communities will hopefully aid in reducing those uneasy factors,” she said.

Steve Runnels, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said spotters play an important role in keeping communities safe, and the class was aimed at helping members of the community identify signs that bad weather is imminent.

Many of the audience members had attended previous weather spotter classes.

Runnels discussed single-cell storms, squall storms and supercell storms, and said that each type of storm has different attributes and levels of severity.

With spring approaching, residents also were urged to check their emergency preparedness kits for anything missing or expired. They recommended some items to include in an emergency preparedness kit such as bottled water, necessary medications, a radio, a flashlight, a first-aid kit and batteries.

“Another tool that will help community members be prepared for emergencies is an all-hazards NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather alert radio,” said Keith Stammer, director of Emergency Management for Joplin and Jasper County. “These programmable radios operate on electricity with battery backup.”

Runnels encouraged residents to keep their eyes on the sky.

“Always expect the unexpected,” he said.

“Doppler is good, you guys are better,” Runnels added.

Got a question?

Anyone with questions about weather preparedness, weather radios or more can call the Joplin/Jasper County Office of Emergency Management at 417-623-5858.