GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Have you ever looked up in the sky and wondered, "What kind of cloud is that?” There is an easy and free way for you to learn more as a storm spotter! Gilbert resident Ed Taggard has been one for 15 years.
“I enjoy being part of that, being able to relay the information, to be able to keep the neighborhood safe,” he said.
Taggard has all the gadgets to measure the weather in his Gilbert backyard.
“Wind speed, rain rates, quantities, temperature, humidity, ” Taggard said as he showed his weather station setup.
He is one of nearly 400,000 people nationwide who are part of the National Weather Services's Skywarn Storm Spotter Program.
It requires a two-hour class where you learn about cloud types, storm threats and how to report damage to the National Weather Service.
“For things ground-based stations can measure, they are not everywhere,” Austin Jamison with the NWS Phoenix, said. “So people can really help fill in the gaps.”
He said sometimes radar will play tricks on meteorologists' eyes and it is important to have boots on the ground to confirm what may or may not be happening. Meteorologists call this ground-truthing.
“You don’t have to be awake 24 hours a day on the watch, that’s not required,” Jamison said. “It’s pretty much, as you encounter something that meets the criteria, you make a report.”
"It's more than just learning about weather, though. They really are taking that extra step to contribute to public safety, so that satisfaction of volunteering,” Jamison added.
Usually, the classes are held in person, but this year, like a lot of things, they will all be online via a webinar.
Jamison said this may not be a bad thing taking the classes online so people can learn in the comfort of their home.
“I think that is a potential positive, is to make the training content more accessible.” To learn more about the Skywarn program and the scheduled dates of the webinar, click here.