MOUNT VERNON — After the unusual weather Knox County experienced in the past year, the annual weather spotting class Wednesday evening, sponsored by the Knox County Emergency Management Agency and the Knox County Amateur Radio Emergency Service, was well attended. Dozens of Knox County residents from all walks of life signed up for the course, which was taught at the EMA office by Brian Mitchell, observing program leader from the National Weather Service in Cleveland.
Those who completed the two-hour class were given cards which identify them as certified Skywarn weather spotters. They will now be able to report weather occurrences they observe either using an online system, or by phone.
Some of the spotters were taking the class for the first time. Larry Bechtel and his wife, Penny, who live north of Fredericktown, said they came because of an interest in the weather.
“We live out in the northern part of the county, at one of the highest points,” said Penny. “I was always interested in watching the clouds.”
Mitchell used a PowerPoint presentation to teach the features of clouds, and what those features mean about imminent weather. Video clips of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms were used to demonstrate the weather happenings observers can watch for.
Spotters were told the importance of reporting hail, wind damage and the appearance of cloud formation, which can be an alert to a coming tornado. The difference between funnel clouds which do not touch the ground and tornadoes was one lesson emphasized.
“Accurate identification of funnel clouds is a key to accurate reporting,” said Mitchell.
Brian Hess, interim Knox County EMA director, said he was pleased with the community turnout. Those who live outside areas covered by outdoor tornado sirens had been encouraged to attend, and many did, he said.
Judy McVay, who lives between Fredericktown and Amity, said she cannot hear any sirens from her home. She found the class very informative.
“I enjoyed it, I really did,” she said.
Some in attendance have been to the class before, and said there were new things explained from past years. Mark Williams, who lives in Mount Vernon, said he noted the updates. He has called the National Weather Service in the past as a spotter to report hail.
Ruben Clark, emergency coordinator for the ARES, said his group has worked with EMA to bring the class to Knox County each year, because of the importance amateur radio can play during a weather emergency when phone lines are down.
Mitchell told the group it could be a help to neighbors during a weather emergency by paying close attention to what is observed, and reporting it accurately.