My whole life, I've always heard that an approaching tornado sounds like a freight train. I never doubted that and then it was confirmed for me on January 3rd, 2000 when a tornado ripped through Owensboro.


It sped past the radio station and, sure enough, it sounded just like a freight train. But what do you look for farther in ADVANCE of a twister? Those questions are answered in storm spotter classes.

I enjoy watching storm spotters and storm chasers work. Chad Benefield and I have discussed how much fun it would be to chase down those big storms like you see on The Weather Channel. It's dangerous work, certainly, but endlessly fascinating. SPOTTERS are less likely to drive into harm's way, but it seems no less interesting knowing what conditions one can observe that would indicate an approaching tornado.


The National Weather Service offers spotter classes in February and March, ahead of the primary severe weather season, and in September and October, just before the SECONDARY severe weather season. Indeed, the worst storms we've encountered over the last couple of decades have taken place in the fall and winter.

The National Weather Service's website tells us that these free courses feature photos and videos of recent violent tornadoes and last about two hours if you're taking the "Spotter Concepts" class. If you're enrolled in the "Elite Spotter Workshop," which lasts anywhere from three to four hours.

It's a vitally important service offered by the NWS but it's equally vital for the agency itself; they need trained eyes in the field when severe weather has been predicted and/or is imminent.


The Paducah office of the National Weather Service will offer a Skywarn Spotter Training class in Owensboro on Thursday, February 10th at 6 PM at Matthew's Table Church, 119 West 24th Street.

Registration is required and you can click the link above to register.

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