National Weather Service holds free training class to teach people how to spot dangerous storms

UPDATE: The National Weather Service at Indianapolis tweeted March 12: “Out of an abundance of caution for COVID-19 & in order to protect our staff as well as the public, all remaining NWS Storm Spotter Classes across central Indiana have been POSTPONED effective immediately.”

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The National Weather Service in Indianapolis is training people on how to spot dangerous storms.

The training comes less than 48 hours after a deadly tornado ripped through Nashville, Tenn., killing at least 24 people.

About 50 people packed into a small room inside Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s east district building Wednesday afternoon. All were attending the NWS’ free storm spotter training class.

“Nothing beats ground truth, somebody calling us, a spotter telling us, ‘hey we are seeing this and it confirms what we are seeing on the radar,'” said NWS meteorologist Mike Ryan.

A range of topics were discussed from how to tell the difference between a wall cloud and a shelf cloud to what a microburst is.

But it’s the most recent tornado in Nashville that the National Weather Service is looking to teach from.

“The Nashville tornado showed us, tornadoes can happen any time of year any time day or night, any sort of information that can help maybe increase that warning lead time, because a spotter maybe sees a funnel cloud or a tornado through a power flash, that’s critical,” said Ryan.

It’s all information that proves useful when sent in to forecasters.

But, more importantly as Storm Track 8 meteorologist Marcus Bailey says it teaches you valuable information that could save a life.

“The biggest thing when it comes to fear of severe weather is the fear of the unknown. So being able to go to these spotter classes and know that is a wall cloud or that’s just a low cloud, that’s not a rotating cloud, that makes a huge difference in being able to stay safe,” said Bailey.

“Without these folks, without them volunteering their time, we cannot do our jobs to the best of our ability,” said Ryan.

After the class is over, everyone who attended is considered a trained storm spotter and can call information in to the National Weather Service to be used during severe weather.

For a full list of when the next free storm spotter training classes are, click here.