Hams network wirelessly to spot storms for PTC’s National Weather Service office
A network of amateur radio operators trained as severe weather spotters served as crucial “eyes and ears” in advance of last week’s devastating tornado-producing storms, according to local weather officials.
The SKYWARN network provided crucial information that in some cases confirmed the violent nature of storms that were appearing on the radar screens of the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, said Meteorologist in Charge Lans Rothfusz.
That data helped enhance the warnings issued by the office, giving concrete information to match the “radar signature” displayed on the NWS screens, Rothfusz said.
The difference is that the radar may mislead as to the actual ground conditions, and the spotters provide real-time data as to what really is happening, he said.
“It could be worse, it could be not as bad, or it could be exactly what we think,” Rothfusz said. “There is a tremendous value of having human eyes out there giving us reports.”
Weather officials call those reports “ground truth,” he added.
NWS also accepts such weather reports from the public as well, Rothfusz noted.
In addition, SKYWARN was able to broadcast weather warnings and watches as they were issued, due to a volunteer ham radio operator’s presence at the NWS office, he added. In actuality, the SKYWARN volunteer was seated directly next to the meteorologist charged with issuing the warnings, Rothfusz said.
“In our area we had 14 confirmed tornados,” Rothfusz said, noting that some investigations were still ongoing. The NWS office in Peachtree City monitors 96 counties in what is roughly the northern two-thirds of Georgia, excluding a small area around Augusta, he added.