Volunteers drive into the storm

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GRAND JUNCTION; Colo. (KJCT) -- Technology has changed the way we can view severe weather events, but sometimes the best view comes from right where the storm is.

On August 23, those spotters are working on how they alert the national weather services of hazardous weather.

"The National Weather Service has a number of volunteers that help us do our job, and to do it better,” Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Jim Pringle said.

"I've always been interested in the weather,” Skywarn Spotter Bill Eads said.

Eads is ready to head out any minute of the day.

"Wherever we have a request or a need to have people keep eyes on the sky and report to us what they are actually seeing at ground level,” Pringle said.

The radar allows meteorologist to track the storms. There are also features that estimate rainfall accumulation and hail stone size, but there is no way to tell what is really happening without someone’s eyes seeing the storm.

"If it's a heavy rainfall event it could result shortly thereafter in a flash flood that could kill people,” Pringle said, “So we want that information as quickly as possible.

When there’s not a stationary spotter in the area, Skywarn Spotters hop in their cars and drive into the storm. Emergency Manager for Mesa County, Andy Martsolf said sometimes that means areas where normally dry washes may potentially turn into raging rivers.

Martsolf said he relies on the spotter’s eyes in the field, monitoring dangerous weather. Meteorologists take the information seen to activate watches and warnings.

"Flash Flooding, Heavy rainfall events, large hail events, funnel clouds, tornadoes, heavy snowfall if we happen to be in the winter time as well as strong winds and any other weather event that could cause damage to or injury to people and animals,” Pringle said.

While out in the field, Eads was caught in a hail storm near Appleton.

"Some of it was quarter inch hail and you can just imagine what that does to crops,” Eads said.

Hail size reports are needed to determine if a storm is severe.

"The hail was hitting the top of my vehicle so hard that I could not hear my two way radio,” Eads said.

There is no salary, to compensate for that damage.

"They care about the weather service; they care about the safety for the communities in which they live,” Martsolf said.

Right now there are 49 spotters throughout western Colorado.

"We very much appreciate our volunteers," Pringle said.



 
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