If you are one of those people who loves to be outside watching the clouds roll in as a big storm approaches, why not use that interest to benefit the county?

The National Weather Service in Des Moines recently issued a listing of all the “storm spotter training” classes going on in Iowa before we get hit with spring storm weather. These classes are open to the public and are free of charge.

Keith Morgan, emergency management coordinator for Story County, encourages interested residents to take the class. “The more people we have here in Story County that are trained as storm spotters, the more likely we are to be able to provide the National Weather Service (NWS) information on weather at ground level,” Morgan said.

Morgan explained that storm spotters provide information on “what is happening in the gap between what NWS personnel can see from their radar and the surface. This is especially important,” he continued, “the further you get away from the radar itself.”

Storm spotter reports, according to Morgan, can help verify what forecasters think is going on. “The more people we have trained, the higher the likelihood we’ll have someone where significant weather is occurring.”

Story County Emergency Management monitors severe weather, and when conditions are such that there might be a need to activate the outdoor warning sirens, due to a tornado, winds greater than 70 miles per hour or hail greater than golf ball size, Emergency Management officials may ask the rural fire departments to deploy as storm spotters to give them real-time feedback on what is occurring. Citizens who become trained would work with these departments in these types of situations.

“Through their (storm spotters’) inputs across public safety radios, emergency management may recommend to the Story County Sheriff’s dispatch (center) to activate outdoor warning sirens in communities in the path of severe weather. This is one more layer of protection beyond the National Weather Service that we have for Story County residents,” Morgan said.

The training for Story County will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 21, starting at 7 p.m. at the Story City Fire Station, 512 Park Ave. in Story City. The class generally lasts an hour and a half.

For those who are interested, but want more information, Morgan can be contacted at the Story County Emergency Management office, 515-382-7315 or by email: kmorgan@storycountyiowa.gov.

The training is important, Morgan said. “It is important to provide spotters the knowledge to give accurate reports and to do spotting in a safe manner.”