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National Weather Service schedules storm spotter trainings ahead of severe weather season

Storm spotters provide critical information to meteorologists about how storms develop and progress through communities across Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa — EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above originally aired in October 2020

As a spring-like pattern begins to take shape across Iowa over the next 10 days, it's a good reminder that the state's severe weather season is not far off.

This may be hard to imagine, especially as it seems like Iowa just began to thaw out from both a snowy winter and an early-February deep freeze. 

Severe weather season brings a variety of hazards to the region, including the risk for large hail, damaging wind gusts, tornadoes and even flash flooding

Meteorologists spend a tremendous amount of time preparing for severe weather setups, focusing heavily on informing the public and providing Iowans with life-saving information before, during and after the storm.

Each year, Iowans interested in severe weather and storm tracking can help in the information-gathering process by relaying field observations to meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Des Moines.

Storm spotters send photos and information to the National Weather Service during times of severe weather, giving forecasters a better idea of how storms are developing, progressing and affecting different communities across the state.

Although storm spotting is incredibly important, it is only helpful if the person sending in a report has a basic understanding of weather patterns and severe weather scenarios. This is why the National Weather Service plans to hold virtual spotter trainings this spring for aspiring storm spotters.

Normally the meetings are held in-person at various locations across central Iowa, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced these classes to assume a virtual format. 

RELATED: Major spring flooding unlikely despite snowy winter

Over the next few weeks, the National Weather Service in Des Moines will host five virtual BASIC spotter training sessions and one ADVANCED spotter training session.

Attendees of the ADVANCED virtual spotter training should have previously attended a BASIC class, as it is intended specifically for those Iowans who desire a deeper understanding of mesoscale and storm-scale meteorology as it related to storm spotting. 

The BASIC virtual spotter trainings are scheduled at the following five times:

  • Thursday, March 11 at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 13 at 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 24 at 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 31 at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 6 at 7 p.m.

The ADVANCED spotter training is scheduled at the following time:

  • Monday, April 19 at 7 p.m.

Prospective storm spotters should register through the National Weather Service Des Moines website.

RELATED: Changes coming to severe thunderstorm warnings in 2021, National Weather Service says

Storm spotters will be trained to provide critical information to meteorologists about a variety of weather events, including tornadoes, wall clouds and funnel clouds, hail, damaging winds, flash flooding and heavy rain, and snow and ice during the winter.

The virtual storm spotter training is open to all Iowans interested in storm spotting. It is important to remember the National Weather Service Des Moines only issues severe weather alerts for part of Iowa. 

National Weather Service offices in Omaha, Sioux Falls, La Crosse and the Quad Cities all forecast for a handful of counties in Iowa, too. 

Watch: Local 5 Weather Lab segments on YouTube

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