Local meteorologists are sharing what they know about severe weather — including what made some storms deadly last year for the first time since 2006 — in a series of free training sessions now through the end of March.
The sessions offer basic and advanced information from National Weather Service meteorologists, including how to recognize clues in clouds that suggest hail, flooding or tornadoes.
Many people think, for example, that when they see a tornado to the east, they are safe because North Texas weather often travels from the west to the east, said Mark Fox, a meteorologist with the weather service in Fort Worth.
But that wasn’t the case for many major storms in 2013, including the deadly tornado in Granbury.
“All the major storms took sharp left turns,” Fox said.
People often don’t know which clouds signal real trouble. Shelf clouds, for example, come in long and low and look scary. But shelf clouds aren’t associated with tornadoes, he said.
“They just mean some wind is coming,” Fox said.
The National Weather Service of Fort Worth offers SkyWarn severe weather classes each year throughout the 46-county region the agency serves. Basic classes can help anyone interested in understanding local weather patterns and be better prepared for severe weather.
But for those residents interested in storm-spotting — and doing so safely — training with both basic and advanced classes can be completed in a day, Fox said.
The weather service offices have a lot of equipment — with satellites, weather balloons and radar informing the computer models — but they only tell part of the story, Fox said.
“Trained storm-spotters help fill in the rest of the story,” Fox said.
The weather service works with a network of volunteers during severe weather to help gather and disseminate information that can save lives. One part of the training session helps re-establish that network each year before severe weather season begins, he said.
There are several classes each week around North Texas. The closest basic classes for Denton residents are in Coppell on Feb. 8 and on the Denton campus of Texas Woman’s University on Feb. 22. The Denton session also includes an advanced class.
For more information on the SkyWarn program with dates and locations of other training events, visit the weather service’s website, www.srh.noaa.gov/fwd/.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.
IF YOU GO
Fort Worth SkyWarn spotter training
* Coppell: Saturday, Feb. 8, 9 to 11 a.m., Coppell City Hall, 255 Parkway Blvd.
Basic and advanced training
* Denton: Saturday, Feb. 22, Hubbard Hall, Texas Woman’s University. Basic training from 9 to 11 a.m.; advanced training from 1 to 4:30 p.m.