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Class helps train ‘eyes on the sky’

Spring and summer storms lead many in the area to keep their eyes on the skies … but what are the conditions which cause a storm to go from just a downpour to a more serious situation?

Those interested in becoming trained weather spotters are invited to participate in a program scheduled next week.

The National Weather Service, in conjunction with the city of Farmington, is offering a Severe Storm Spotter/Weather Safety Class program at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 15 at the Farmington Fire Department Training Room, located at 222 E. Columbia St.

Farmington Emergency Management Director Dan Duncan said the class is open to anyone in St. Francois County.

“(The National Weather Service) recommends (a county) having a recertification class every two years,” Duncan said, noting it has been at least two years since the last class was offered in St. Francois County.

According to Duncan, the class is taught by personnel from the St. Louis office of the National Weather Service and will touch on such topics as how to spot a potentially dangerous storm, the different types of clouds associated with weather, and the differences between the issuing of a warning or a watch.

The class is open to all ages who have an interest in learning more about severe weather. Participants of at least high school age will be eligible to sign up as a volunteer storm spotter through the service’s “Skywarn” storm spotter program.

Attendance at a class taught by NWS personnel is required to be listed in the NWS storm spotter database. Instructions on how to sign up for the database will be given at the class.

“Participants in the spotter class can be a trained weather spotter,” Duncan said. “(The NWS) will give you a designated spotter ID number and you can call the weather service to submit your information.”

The website,, says the NWS uses trained volunteers “to try and fill the gaps between the technology and to provide better warnings … who agree to become the ‘eyes and ears’ of the NWS.”

“Weather spotters provide real-time observations of severe weather events such as tornadoes, damaging winds, hail, flooding and winter weather. These reports assist NWS meteorologists in making warning decisions. Spotters help the NWS fulfill its mission of protecting life and property, and also help in providing the citizens of their communities with lifesaving information,” the website states.

Duncan said the classes are held during the “off-season” for severe weather … although it’s not uncommon for typically spring and summer storms to take place in the fall.

The class typically takes between two to two-and-a-half hours. Registration is not required.

Local businesses had contacted Duncan about the possibility of another class taking place in the area. “It’s not only good for the residents but also good for the safety teams at local businesses to know what to see (in the event of severe weather),” Duncan said.

In addition, the NWS said others who would benefit from the class include police and fire personnel, dispatchers, EMS workers, public utility workers and amateur radio operators, as well as those involved with hospitals, schools, churches and nursing homes and have a responsibility for others.

For more information contact Duncan at 573-218-2755, or visit the NWS storm spotter page at

Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor for the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or

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