12/15/2008 5:26:53 AM
Daily Journal BY
TUPELO – Ronald McCollum and Jim Miller spend a lot of time looking up at the sky, a hobby they wish more people would take up.
Both men are certified Skywarn Weather Spotters and Ham radio operators. As members of the KK5K Tupelo Amateur Radio Club, Miller and McCollum take their weather spotting duties seriously.
Spotting since 1992, McCollum said storm spotters serve as the eyes for the National Weather Service and the local television stations.
“As storm spotters we really provide a public service,” said McCollum. “We’re not doing this for personal gain. Knowing when a storm is coming and where it’s coming from can be an issue of loss of life and property.”
Miller has been a spotter since 1967, a long time before weather radar was used to spot storm systems. He said a misconception many people have about spotting storms is that anyone can walk on their porch, look up at the sky and spot a storm system and call it in. But that’s not the case, he says.
“You have to actually complete a Skywarn storm spotter course before you are considered a legitimate storm spotter,” said Miller. “You have to know what to look for when you look at a storm system in order to call in the correct information. Getting the wrong information out to the public is not being helpful.”
In addition to National Weather Service courses, WTVA meteorologists Dick Rice and John Dolusic teach a storm spotter course to certify spotters in Northeast Mississippi. Rice said spotters are an essential part to getting severe weather warnings out to the public.
“Spotters allow us to get information out very rapidly,” said Rice. “They are invaluable to weather news. Without spotters, it’s hard to verify severe weather.”
Rice said the information trained storm spotters call in is very reliable.
Not to be mistaken for storm chasers, Miller said storm spotters don’t even have to leave the comfort of their home to spot severe weather, and they definitely should never chase a storm system.
“Safety is a priority,” explained Miller. “We observe from a distance and relay what we see to the weather service. We don’t try to run down storms. You can step out on your porch and look out and spot a storm.”
Miller also said he doesn’t advise untrained people to go out and try to spot storms.
“People call in all the time about tornadoes and things that they spot, and none are there,” said Miller. “Wrong information is bad information when dealing with storms.”
With about 60 storm spotters throughout Northeast Mississippi, McCollum said more are still needed.
“You can’t have enough storm spotters out there,” said McCollum. “We could use one in every square inch of the area.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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