'Army' of Volunteers Trained to Keep Eyes on the Skies for National Weather Service

Posted Apr 29, 2016

(TNS) - Ready for class in a red Listie Volunteer Fire Company sweatshirt, Brenda Shaffer said she’s always had a general interest in weather patterns.

That interest multiplies when she knows the stakes are high – when her fellow firefighters are responding to emergencies.

“When the guys are out on calls is when I worry,” she said.

By the end of the class Thursday evening – part of a program to train the public on reporting potentially dangerous weather – Shaffer had learned about the difference between a funnel cloud and a tornado, how to categorize winds or how to use everyday objects to easily estimate the diameter of hail.

Most important, she learned how to help the National Weather Service improve its reporting with live, on-the-ground weather events, organizers said.

An “army” of trained volunteers – about 3,000 in the state’s central regions – are important supplements to the sophisticated equipment in Centre County for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service office in State College, class instructor Peter Jung, warning coordination meteorologist for the office, told the group of about 40 people who gathered at the Somerset County HazMat building in Friedens.

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