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Eye of the storm: SKYWARN

February 06, 2013 - Groveland Twp.- While the National Weather Service uses advanced technology to forecast weather, there remains one tool that is even more accurate and dates back to the dawn of mankind.

"We have tons and tons of highly sophisticated technology, but the human eye is the best tool we have," said Bethany Kenney, coordinator of the SKYWARN program. "We can only see so much (weather) on radar."

With the knowledge that residents are the best warning system for severe weather, the Oakland County Homeland Security Division coordinates SKYWARN training classes, led by meteorologists from the National Weather Service in White Lake. The classes began more than 20 years ago. This year, one of the six free classes offered countywide will take place from 7-9 p.m., Feb. 25, at the Groveland Fire Station #1, 14645 Dixie Highway (at Grange Hall Road).

"It is very, very neat," said Kenney. "The more trained eyes we have out there, the better our citizens will be prepared for a natural disaster."

Class participants will be trained to be severe weather spotters, learning the basics of thunderstorm development, storm structure, and what and where to find distinct features of severe weather. The different types of clouds will be shown and attendees will be taught the terminology to use according to NWS guidelines in order to be able to better inform meteorologists on what they are seeing during weather events.

Kenney notes that not all tornados show up on radar, and while they cannot be stopped, lives can be saved with more trained eyes to spread a warning.

The class does not advocate chasing storms, only offering training that will be useful if severe weather is detected. Participants are urged to call an 800 number they will be given at the class to report severe weather.

"Human safety is number one, you are not going to be a storm chaser, but if you are out or driving and see something, you can pull over and call," said Kenney.

She notes that the free classes fill up quickly. About 50 spots are available for the Groveland class. To register, go to oakgov.com/homelandsecurity and click on the SKYWARN logo, or call 248-858-5300.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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