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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Safety stressed in storm spotting meeting

  • The 43 tornadoes on April 14 were the most Kansas has ever seen on a single April day.
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  • The 43 tornadoes on April 14 were the most Kansas has ever seen on a single April day.
    Although the number is impressive, that is not the statistic Chance Hayes of the National Weather Service finds most significant.
    It’s the fact that there were only minor injuries when the dust had settled – a result of communication and teamwork between storm spotters, storm chasers and the National Weather Service office.
    "That right there was the most impressive thing to me from that day," he said. "That tells me folks paid attention."
    It’s for the public’s safety they’re out on the field and tracking the weather.
    "Team work is essential," he said. "You all have to trust us as the National Weather Service. Your life is in our hands."
    But the weathermen have to trust the storm spotters as well, which is why Hayes led a public storm spotters meeting at the McPherson Community Building Monday night. The warning coordination meteorologist helped attendees identify types of clouds and what to do when severe storms occur.
    When the National Weather Service receives a call, Hayes said they want to know the three W’s: What, when and where. What could be quantified by size of hail or wind gusts, which can give clues as to the size and severity of the storm. When and where help the weather experts to accumulate specific, on-the-spot data for warning.
    It is not uncommon, however, for spotters to misidentify types of cloud formations. Wall clouds and shelf clouds are two major formations.
    Shelf clouds extend flat across the span of the horizon. Winds are its greatest threat, which occur at the front of the storm.
    Wall clouds extend vertically and look somewhat like a puffy mushroom. These storms create a greater potential of damaging weather. Tornadoes extend from a smaller cloud on bottom side of the storm.
    As they seek to report these storms, Hayes stressed the importance of safety and common sense. This is especially true as he has seen a rise in the amount of self-proclaimed storm chasers in recent years
    "There’s a lot of safe folks out there providing a wonderful service, but the more people that are our there makes it a little more difficult for the people that are following the rules," he said.
    But if they are going out, it is essential spotters have location-specific storm data, such as radar on laptops or smartphones, available to ensure their safety. This way, no one is getting trapped in hail or gawking at a tornado that is too close for comfort.
    "I see it all too often," he said. "It all boils down to common sense. If we use common sense, 90 something percent of all injuries and fatalities due to weather would be completely eliminated."
    Page 2 of 2 - Hayes said he hoped to communicate some of this common sense during his session, discouraging spotters from taking unnecessary risk.
    "If this gets one person get to the basement and keeps them from being injured, it serves its purpose," he said.
    Contact Jenae Pauls at jenae.pauls@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel
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