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Experts seek to train others to be ‘eyes of the weather service’ at Ohio State seminar

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Lightning during a May storm in Columbus. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Lightning during a May storm in Columbus.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

When it comes to extreme weather, it’s good to know the signs.

That’s the premise of an upcoming seminar aimed to teach individuals to recognize what to look for in dangerous weather before it hits.

The annual Tornado and Severe Weather Spotter Seminar, sponsored by the Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security and Ohio State Emergency Management, is set to be held in the Fawcett Center, located at 2400 Olentangy River Road, Saturday at 9 a.m.

“We train them to be the eyes of the weather service,” said Kenneth Haydu, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service’s regional forecast office in Wilmington, Ohio. Haydu is set to be the primary speaker at the seminar this year and has been conducting the seminars for more than 20 years, he said.

Ben Gelber, a meteorologist for the television station NBC4, is also expected to speak at the seminar.

Haydu said trained weather spotters add credibility to weather warnings from the National Weather Service, as Doppler radar does not tell when tornadoes and severe hailstorms are occurring on the ground.

“We’re hoping to train them on what they’re gonna see when they’re gonna look up at the sky,” Haydu said.

Collaboration between Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security and OSU for the seminar has been going on for a few years.

“Last couple years, we’ve been teaming with OSU because of the large amount of people the Fawcett Center can contain at one time,” said Michael Pannell, director of Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Pannell said people who complete the seminar receive a certificate indicating they’ve completed training to discern weather conditions and cloud formations for signs of incoming hazards such as tornadoes.

“The National Weather Service takes very seriously what our weather spotters say,” Pannell said.

The Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security website lists tornadoes as the most prevalent hazard facing Franklin County, among dam failure, flooding and terrorist-related incidents.

First-year in engineering Tori Garcia said she once encountered a tornado with no warning.

“I don’t think my mom would have taken us grocery shopping if she knew there was a tornado coming,” said Garcia, who added that weather spotters could be a great help.

Haydu said more than 375 people have signed up for the seminar, which is free to people who sign up ahead of time.

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