The National Weather Service will conduct a Storm Spotter Training Session in Sedalia Thursday night. KMZU’s Chasity Anderson Spoke with NWS Meteorologist Ryan Cutter…

Ryan Cutter

Press Release Provided by the Pettis County Sheriff’s Department:

NWS Storm Spotter Training hosted by Sedalia-Pettis Co EMA this Thursday, Feb 10 at 7 pm, 1701 W 32nd. Public invited.

The Sedalia-Pettis County EMA will be hosting Storm Spotter training this Thursday, February 10th, 7pm at First United Methodist Church Celebration Center, 1701 West 32nd Street in Sedalia.  The public is welcome and encouraged to attend the presentation.

Forecasters from the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill conduct storm spotter training sessions each year to help prepare spotters for the upcoming severe weather season. The NWS conducts the training at the invitation of local emergency management officials who organize the training and who, in most cases are responsible for maintaining their local storm spotter network.

The training sessions cover fundamental information that every spotter needs to know, with a focus on safety, identification of key weather features and proper reporting procedures. The sessions are open to anyone who is interested in learning more about severe weather or being a spotter.

Weather or not you attend the training, don’t be fooled by clouds just because they are scary-looking.  Trained severe weather spotters understand that they have to look at specific cloud features to determine if it is actually rotating.  They have to take a deep breath, relax, and observe for a minute or two.  The name of the game is to be 100% accurate – and not be the 1st person to call or radio in the report and be wrong. Trained severe weather spotters have been told that if they can’t figure out what they are looking at, then they shouldn’t report!

Scary-looking clouds can just be cloud fragments that briefly resemble a funnel cloud or tornado and hang low at the base of the parent clouds.  Due to hills and trees blocking your field of view, they may even appear to touch the ground.  These kinds of clouds look scary to some people who might call them in as funnel clouds, or even tornadoes, to 911 Dispatchers.  This results in false funnel cloud or false tornado reports being relayed to the National Weather Service.  Hopefully you will not be that person.

Most false tornado and false funnel cloud reports are associated with shelf clouds.  Shelf clouds are a low-hanging, horizontal cloud feature attached to the front side of lines of storms or even a single storm.  Usually there isn’t any persistent rotation within shelf clouds or within individual cloud fragments that extend downward from the shelf cloud, therefore they are just another scary-looking cloud.  Shelf clouds often resemble a snow plow or big waves and can be very scary-looking since they are usually low-hanging.  Sometimes they may found only a couple hundred feet above the ground. 

There are two other phenomena that might resemble tornadoes or funnel clouds: 1) dark rain shafts/narrow colums of heavy rain, and 2) a white colored column of a hail shaft which may extend from the ground to the cloud base. Hail shafts may generate a light-dark contrast with surrounding rain, resulting in what might appear to be a funnel cloud or a tornado to the untrained eye. 

Actual tornadoes and funnel clouds rotate.  If the scary-looking cloud you are looking at is not rotating, it’s not a funnel cloud or a tornado, even if it looks like it’s touching or almost touching the ground.