Promoting Safe Storm Spotting

kmreid

EF1
Mar 3, 2011
89
1
6
Arkansas
Well, let me just say that I have been spotting for two years now. I try to learn as much as I can about how the weather works and devote a lot of time to studying and asking questions to veteran chasers/spotters. This year, I plan on going on my first chase. I have prepared for a couple of years and even then, I want to make sure that I do things right and keep myself and others safe!

That being said, there is a spotter group that has been in the local media lately. They are very young and from speaking with a couple of them, they are a bit inexperienced (we all have to start somewhere). The part that gets me, is that I don't feel that they are going about things in a safe manner. They are just using their "title" as a platform to gain media attention. I know a number of spotters who do their job and do not expect to be given a pat on the back every time that send in a report to the NWS. Unless they have gained funding from the public, I do not think that they have any of the necessary tools or equipment to help them in the field. It scares me that they are making spotting into a "sport" and not so much an effort to help others. Yes, I would love to see a tornado in a safe location, but I try to remain objective and help others first! The newspapers and news stations are promoting these spotters and I don't think that they are placing enough emphasis on safety. I feel like they are trying to build off of "Storm Chasers". I am sure that I am coming off as being a bit jealous. It just annoys me that the people that really are contributing are not being allowed to set an example, while people that are going about things in a poor manner, are being hailed as trend setters. Anyone else face these issues?
 

rdale

EF5
Mar 1, 2004
7,129
670
21
49
Lansing, MI
skywatch.org
You might need to use some specifics, because I'm not quite sure what you are talking about. What spotters? What media? Who is promoting them? What are their dangerous spotting activities and how does that affect you/us?
 
Feb 27, 2009
463
75
11
Texarkana, AR
I thought of this that was posted a while back. They are Arkansas boys, so they might be the ones that are up to no good.

http://www.stormtrack.org/forum/showthread.php?28620-How-to-steal-the-Dominator


Of course I'm joking. I can see how you, Kayla... could be irritated are even afraid for them.... but everyone's going to do their own thing I guess. I really don't know how spotter groups work. Thought about going to a class this year just to see what it was like, but I'm not usually here if the weather is bad. Unless it's really bad.... right here, lol. Seems Like I've heard of "mobile" spotters before, so if a storm is coming in and some of them want to get in position to see a tornado... I can't see how that could be a bad thing.
 

kmreid

EF1
Mar 3, 2011
89
1
6
Arkansas
I really didn't want to mention names but it is the Pope County Storm Spotters. They have been endorsed by KARK. They basically take anyone's forecast and makes it out to be their own. I have spoke with one of them and they had no radios, no computer or any other device that had a radar program. Our area of the state in AR is very dangerous as far as storms go. They drive blindly into these places without making sure of what they are doing. Anybody can copy and paste what the NWS and SPC say, so I am not impressed. There is much that I don't know but I make my forecast FIRST and then check it against SPC if I am not entirely certain. I honestly think they aren't able to even make a guess at a forecast. I am confused that so many people actually are "fans" of theirs.
 
Apr 16, 2010
274
1
0
Omaha, NE
I don't think Skywarn requires forecasting abilities and I'm pretty sure most don't require radar (though it's recommended), so, you really don't have a case with the spotter police. Let them live and learn and they will eventually become experienced.
 
I like to fish. I use a spin cast reel and either fish from my canoe or from my pier, and preferably I stay out of the water.

There are more and more people around here getting into 'noodling'. That's where the person fishing wades out into the water, takes a deep breath, and sticks his/her arm up under rocks and logs trying to get a large catfish to latch onto their hand. I think it's irresponsible and dangerous because there are many things that could happen. They could get a large snapping turtle and lose their fingers or hand. The log or rock could shift, pinning their arm so they cannot resurface and therefore drown. There are a few water moccasins in this area.

I know this has nothing to do with chasing, but the situation is very similar. There is something that we are familiar with and enjoy yet we see other people doing it differently and even in a dangerous manner. If we want to potentially have a positive impact on their safety the best thing we can do is talk to them one on one. As long as they are not hurting someone else in the process it's pretty much their decision to do what they want to do how they want to do it. Worrying about it too much is just wasted negative energy in my opinion.

I just hope that they don't get hurt in the learning process. And good luck on your upcoming chase. I think once you chase you will be hooked (no pun intended).

Sent from my DROID2 GLOBAL using Tapatalk
 
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I don't think Skywarn requires forecasting abilities and I'm pretty sure most don't require radar (though it's recommended), so, you really don't have a case with the spotter police. Let them live and learn and they will eventually become experienced.
I agree with this if they are just spotters then really no forecasting is needed. You basically just just get activated if severe weather is approaching your county and go spot. Forecasting skills are needed more for chasing when you are driving hundreds or thousands of miles. I looked at their facebook page and it looks like it's just a group of young guys that love weather. Their goal is to help warn the public of severe weather so I see nothing wrong with that. They will either learn and start being safer or lose interest in it after shows like Storm Chasers loses popularity and it's no longer "cool" to chase/spot.
 
Apr 14, 2011
310
33
11
Alexandria, LA
OP: Everyone here doesn't seem to understand your concern. Perhaps some elaboration is in order.

You say they don't have tools or equipment or "experience", or as you said even computers with radar software. But you haven't yet explained exactly what it is that they're doing. Are they presenting themselves as forecasters? Are they really posting NWS forecasts as if they were theirs, or just posting the forecasts? Are they chasing with their personal vehicles or staying home and watching? Are they taking pictures or do they call the NWS when they see something? What risky behaviors specifically are they engaging in?

Strictly speaking, anyone has the right to hop in their cars with their camcorders and drive off in pursuit of storms. I do admit it's a little distasteful for them to be proclaiming they're doing anything scientifically useful when they're not (or engaging in the old "we're saving lives!" cliche when they've never called the NWS or 911 even once), but what can you do?

For fixed location spotting, you don't need any equipment whatsoever aside from working eyes and a phone or some other method of communicating with the NWS. For mobile spotting, you need the above plus a vehicle. Anything else is optional - perhaps increasing your chances of seeing something neat, but not strictly necessary to do the job.
 
Apr 14, 2011
310
33
11
Alexandria, LA
Is the point of a spotter not to witness and report the unpleasant surprises? The NWS only activates spotters when it's pretty sure unpleasantness may be coming, and it seems to me that every minute spent looking at the computer trying to find a "promising return" is a minute not spent looking at the sky and spotting. As I've mentioned elsewhere, the NWS is already looking at the radar.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to it - if you've got a computer and a mobile connection, use 'em - but you can not have 'em and still be an effective spotter.
 
Oct 10, 2006
213
13
11
Fort Worth, Texas
Someone in the spotter network, be it the NCS or NWS radio operators, needs to have access to some type of radar to help direct the individual spotters to safe areas and out of harms way while they are observing.
 

kmreid

EF1
Mar 3, 2011
89
1
6
Arkansas
Greg hit it on the head. We live in a VERY hilly and tree covered area. I am a parent, and as such, I worry about their safety (they are young as I mentioned before). The lack of equipment does concern me quite a bit. You need to have more than just a visual around here and seeing how they do not have the proper tools to help them, it worries me. They have went to an unfamiliar town after dark, and was trying to look for rotation within a storm. That just made me cringe. That is a definite way to get yourself in trouble. I know that there have to be veteran chasers out there that see my concern. I could understand "winging it" in flat or more open country but NOT in our area. I think their passion for weather is great, but they need to be smart about it. I know this entire thread may come off as a rant, and to an extent I guess it is. I was just mainly wanting to know how to approach this, OR if I even should say anything. They have been promoted by our local newspaper, facebook and KARK news, so I have a feeling that they would think that I was just trying to cash in on their fame. I don't want to come across as trying to ride their shirt tails. I want to give them some advice and directing them to those who can be proper mentors.
 
Dec 18, 2003
4,138
39
11
Lubbock, TX
daviddrummond.com
They have been promoted by our local newspaper, facebook and KARK news, so I have a feeling that they would think that I was just trying to cash in on their fame. I don't want to come across as trying to ride their shirt tails. I want to give them some advice and directing them to those who can be proper mentors.
Please don't take this the wrong way, but that is EXACTLY how they will likely take it. It's happened before in chasing/spotting. In fact, it happens all the time, practically after nearly every event, there is someone (sometimes it's another chaser/spotter, sometimes it's just chaser fans) that brings up concerns about something someone did out there while chasing. Sometimes the concerns are legitimate, other times they are just to stir the pot.

But in every single case I can ever remember, and I go back a long way in this activity, it has never ended in a positive exchange or result. Usually the outcome is a ton of unnecessary drama, that may not have been intended or expected by the original "concerned" person. Maybe my memory is getting bad, but I don't recall any, and there are many, many, many dramanating tales people on this forum can tell you that resulted from such things.

My advice, take it or leave it, is to just leave the situation alone. It sounds like you might have some legitimate concerns, or at least worries for them, but in the end they are gonna do what they are gonna do, and you can have it with or without the drama that is sure to get going if you try to make them see the error of their ways. Once upon a time I tried myself, any more I just take the attitude, chase and let chase and try not to let the stupid stuff I see out there bother me too much.

An alternative might be to join up with them, or at least befriend them, and gently try to push them in a better direction, but even there you have to be careful. Many of the young ones coming in to chasing these days seem to think they came out of the womb tornado chasing gods and can't/won't be taught anything by those of use who have been around a while.
 
Mar 14, 2010
294
32
11
Siloam Springs, Arkansas
I would suggest talking to them and show them whats available. I did it for countless years without radar and was very behind in technology even when it was available. I was thankful a local stormchaser discovered me one day and opened my eyes. I know what you mean by chasing blind but as you probably know it still is a whole different ball game here in the jungle. I wouldn't say it was a bad thing though because what others think is suicide just 30 miles to my North, I consider it prime chasing area and have no problem navigating. Traffic is the thing I worry about. I've tried my best to pass my knowledge to chaser wannabe's (for sake of argument). I stumbled along a group not too long ago that I started watching and they were on practically every rain shower. After visiting with them I discovered they had nothing technology wise. Very nice group of kids and really had the go getem attitude. They obviously wasn't gonna stop so I made it a priority to get them setup. After lots of ride alongs with me and hundreds if not thousands of miles following me everywhere, the main guy is now working with me as a media spotter. The approach can be tricky but try to turn your situation into something positive. They might be forever thankful. My hats off to Mr Bart Comstock while im at it. Yeah I know what everyone thinks about him. He's a freaking nut, but he taught me how to get right on the border of death and come out alive. He also took it one step further and got me my media job so even if im the wreckless and stupid one as some probably see me as, I have the privilege of providing instant information to thousands of viewers and im forever thankful. He could have kept on going. And now some sleep. Lol
 
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kmreid

EF1
Mar 3, 2011
89
1
6
Arkansas
Thank you all very much for the advice and/or insight! I have heard of situations like this coming up before and I wanted to know how to approach the situation. My niece is the same age as these guys and she is really devoted to studying Meteorology when she graduates high school (which will be soon). One of these boys has a crush on her and I have asked her to keep an eye on them for me. She doesn't really agree with their approach either. I told her that she could drop my name in casual conversation IF she felt it would benefit them. I guess for now, I am going to sit back and see how they approach this season.
 
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
91
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Something perplexes me about this discussion. These guys are spotters, not chasers, right? So aren't they being coordinated by a dispatcher who assigns them positions? I've never served as a spotter, but I've always had the impression that trained spotters don't simply go gallivanting about wherever they please, but are given set locations by a central coordinator who has radar and can move spotters about as need arises, such as when safety becomes an issue. If these kids are simply driving around as they please, then I question whether they are indeed spotters. Do you know whether they've had Skywarn training and are allied with Skywarn?
 
Dec 18, 2003
4,138
39
11
Lubbock, TX
daviddrummond.com
That's only true of some spots, usually more urban areas Bob. The wide open rural areas usually or often will have mobile spotters that go pretty much where they want in their own coverage area. It's usually because they have a lot of area to cover, and relatively few spotters. This is the most common arrangement out on the plains. Often the net control stations are sitting at a radio, either at the NWS office, or in direct contact with them, so radar/forecaster input is quickly available. In some areas, it's not uncommon for NWS employees to be hams and to get on the net and talk directly with spotters, especially if it's not a particularly busy event.

Bottom line, there really are no "standards" as far as spotters are concerned. It's handled a bit differently pretty much in every NWS CWA, and even in that sometimes differently on a county by county basis.
 
Mar 23, 2009
226
10
11
Ypsilanti, MI
Re-reading this...has anyone contacted KARK? Escially the um, more experienced spotter groups? KARK has a public service duty that will get them a huge black eye if idiocy happens on their watch. Plus, they may find the 1st Amendment won't keep them them out of court in a liability suit if a family gets killed (god forbid) because they endorsed malfeasance. If nothing else, due diligence would require Skywarn training for anyone reporting to them. Heck, they could advertise that they have trained spotters.

Or an NWS office...they have a dog in this fight. They are also in a position to make sure the "Dukes of Hazardous Weather" are aware of Skywarn training. At some point, talking has to happen. Who knows...they might even shape up into a good group of spotters.
 

SCombs

Enthusiast
Jan 19, 2011
4
1
0
I am a SkyWarn and a ARES member for Wichita County in Texas. When we have severe weather threatening our surrounding counties we are activated and go to predetermined locations around our county. We all are Ham Radio operators and are directed by a Net Control Operator who has RADAR and is in direct communication with NWS at Norman Oklahoma. We are some what mobile as we move to the best spots to view the storms and report developing severe weather threats. Those reports are then communicated to Norman via Ham Radio or phone as needed. The weather service has informed us that they can and do weed through thousands of reports during severe weather events. When they receive a report that is questionable in our area they will have us the (trained spotters) take a look. We have over the years built up a very good and trustworthy relationship with the NWS in Norman. That's the key to good creditable storm spotting group. We have found that our tactics for storm spotting is the best method for our area. We have big wide open country and good roads. Our Net controlled spotting is very efficient and very safe for our spotters. We get the information to the weather service and our local emergency coordination team in a timely matter. Not relying on cell phones that may be overwhelmed during a emergency.
As for the media they will report or do what ever they need to keep ratings up. Don't mind them. The individual reporters they have are a dime a dozen and they will move on.
I applaud you concern for safety. That's what its all about. If the individuals your talking about are doing this because it's "popular" or the "in thing to do" they in time will loose interest and move on. Hopefully before someone gets hurt. If they are truly doing it to help or to learn then power to them. Look at it this way. You are doing what you are trained to do. You are watching, monitoring and informing of a potential unsafe event. This just happens not to be a severe weather event but a possible unsafe practice for a spotter group. Continue to talk with them. Share what you have learned. It could turn of to be a life saving experience for one of them. Just remember how you felt when a veteran spotter was talking with you when you were starting out. Be safe and keep up the good work.
 

rdale

EF5
Mar 1, 2004
7,129
670
21
49
Lansing, MI
skywatch.org
KARK does spotter training classes in conjunction with the NWS, so I'm not sure what black eye or liability they have in this. My guess is there is more to the story...
 
Mar 23, 2009
226
10
11
Ypsilanti, MI
KARK does spotter training classes in conjunction with the NWS, so I'm not sure what black eye or liability they have in this. My guess is there is more to the story...
Well, if the Pope County folks do their thing in a manner that is creditable to KARK endorsement, and actually help to get the word out...yay!

But, if they don't...KARK's imprimatur may be embarrassing to the station. Very embarrassing.