Public invited to free weather spotter training


By Bonnie Adams

Government Editor

Public invited to free weather spotter trainingMarlborough – If there's anything New Englanders like to talk about, it's the weather. And in this region, with its ever changing forecast, there's always a lot to talk about. If you'se ever had the desire to be an amateur Dick Albert or Cindy Fitzgibbon or would just like to learn more about how weather works, then a seminar in Marlborough, sponsored by the National Weather Service (NWS), might be for you.

The public is invited to attend a “severe weather spotter” training session Saturday, July 30 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Marlborough Central Fire Department, 215 Maple St. (Route 85). The session, which is part of the NWS's SKYWARN program, is free and open to all weather enthusiasts age 16 and older, as well as amateur radio operators and emergency responders.

“You don's have to have a background in science or weather,” said Rob Macedo, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) coordinator for the NWS office based in Taunton, “just an interest in weather or the desire to learn more about weather.”

During the session, participants will view a computer-based presentation about identifying elements of severe thunderstorms, such as particular cloud formations, and learn more about winter storms, snow measurement and tornados. Spotters will also learn when to report other conditions such as hail, winds, trees or power lines down, heavy rains, structural damage from weather and flooding.

Once participants complete the one-day session, they are certified as NWS weather spotters and will receive instructions on how to call information into the NWS, as well as how to transmit their observations online or via amateur ham radios.

The Taunton branch serves all of Massachusetts, with the exception of Berkshire County, as well as parts of Rhode Island and Connecticut. Currently there are approximately 7,000 weather spotters in that region, Macedo said. The spotters not only help the NWS in situations such as severe thunder storms but also provide specific information regarding other hazardous conditions including winter storms and blizzards and unusual activity such as the recent tornados that devastated several western Massachusetts communities.

“The information we collect can help to correlate what is happening between towns,” Macedo explained. An example could be weather spotters identifying weather patterns in one area, such as a tornado, that can directly affect other communities that might be in its path.

That data is then shared via weather service reports (which can be accessed by the public online at the agency's website, and is also sent to local municipalities who use it to inform their employees, as well as the public.

Weather spotters also helped collect vital data over the past winter with information regarding the area's snow accumulation, Macedo said. This information was disseminated to municipalities to warm them of snow accumulation that could impact roof safety, he added.

There is no obligation once you become certified as a weather spotter, Macedo noted; the only stipulation is that you must get retrained every five years, which can be done online.

Pre-registration is not required for the Marlborough training session. For more information, visit the local NWS website,