The Sebastian County Department of Emergency Management and Public Safety is hosting a free weather spotter class in partnership with the National Weather Service Office in Tulsa.
The class will be at the county’s emergency management and public safety facility at 8400 S. Zero St. in Fort Smith on Monday from 6-9 p.m., according to a news release. No preregistration is required. A National Weather Service meteorologist will serve as the instructor and speak on topics ranging from storm safety to storm spotting and storm recognition techniques.
Jeff Turner, assistant county administrator for public safety, said the purpose of the class is to train the public, as well as first-responders, in weather spotting and recognition of severe weather.
"A lot of times when we get some weather in here, it shows up just real sudden, and we want people to be able to notice the warning signs, if you will, of impending weather, especially this time of year, you know, starting in March with tornado season," Turner said. "So the focus is just general observations and things that will help people when they're outdoors. ... A lot of times our weather will pop up at night too, and so we want people to be aware of what they need to look for."
Trained and dedicated people throughout eastern Oklahoma and northwestern Arkansas monitor the skies around their communities during severe weather events, the release states. These storm spotters provide first-hand severe weather reports to their local officials and the National Weather Service in Tulsa, which are used to make critical warning decisions.
The Tulsa office of the National Weather Service trains members of police and fire departments, emergency management officials and amateur radio operators each winter and spring on spotting techniques.
"The goal of the training is not just to recognize tornadoes, but to have some understanding of storm structure, which in turn better prepares the spotter for the extreme and unusual circumstances," the release states. "Other topics covered include an update on the latest NWS technology and procedures, ideas for organizing/coordinating spotter groups and important safety considerations."