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National Weather Service seeking weather spotters

Beaufort County is no stranger to severe weather. Floyd, Bertha, Irene, Matthew — these hurricanes, and more, have all left their mark. When the barometer starts to drop, residents of Beaufort County rely on the National Weather Service about what they can expect from a coming storm. And the National Weather Service would like to rely on the residents of Beaufort County to help them stay informed.

Next Thursday, in conjunction with Beaufort County Emergency Services and Beaufort County Community College, NWS is hosting a Basic SKYWARN training class. The class trains volunteers how to identify severe weather and report it to the NWS. The training is free and open to everyone; there are no age requirements, no previous training or equipment is necessary.

“The goal of the class is to the educate the public not only on reporting severe weather but severe weather damage through the appropriate channels,” said Chris Newkirk, operations chief of Beaufort County fire/emergency management. “It’s more of systematic approach to what should be reported and how it should it be reported, in a timely manner.”

“Trained weather spotters provide valuable lifesaving information to the National Weather Service, and we encourage those who have an interest in weather to participate in this critical program,” Erik Heden, NWS warning coordination meteorologist, wrote in a press release. “Despite all the technological advances, SKYWARN spotter reports are still crucial to the National Weather Service in providing more accurate severe weather warnings.”

The class will be taught by Newport-based NWS representatives and will be held 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Building 8 auditorium at BCCC.

Newkirk said the Basic SKYWARN class was previously held in Beaufort County, but there was less of an effort to get the greater community involved.

“Part of this initiative from the NWS is to really push it out to the community. They’re constantly looking for accurate, timely intel. They’re really trying to extend their reach into communities so they can use that intel in a timely matter,” Newkirk said. “They really like to focus on civic groups, home owners’ associations — people who tend to take a more proactive approach to their community. Those people tend to be engaged.”

Newkirk said the feed of information can help NWS forecasters with their models, which ultimately benefits everyone living in the area.

Seats are limited, so registration is required. Those interested in taking the class can register by calling 252-223-5122 ext. 5 or emailing Heden at erik.heden@noaa.gov. For more information, visit weather.gov/mhx.