Cooke County and National Weather Service officials are scheduled to partner in a dual-taught severe weather-spotting program set for Wednesday, Feb. 6, at Gainesville Civic Center.
The two-hour seminar is free, open to the public and now an annual tradition. Cooke County Fire Marshal Ray Fletcher, who co-hosts the program, said recently that the information will be useful for everyone who attends, not just storm-spotting buffs.
“It will help them better understand what to look for and how to react appropriately,” he said. “Even the lay person who goes to it will have a better understanding of how to perform during severe weather and when to be concerned, and when to know that it’s just a thunderstorm.
“That way, they don’t end up in their storm shelters every time thunder rolls around,” Fletcher added. “They’ll know when it’s imperative to seek shelter.”
This program will discuss thunderstorm formation, severe weather production, and features associated with severe storms. The presentation will also review tornado formation and behavior, non-threatening clues which may be mistaken for significant features, and safety when thunderstorms threaten. The program will discuss spotter operations and recommended reporting procedures, and will include nearly 25 minutes of storm video clips.
The National Weather Service is locally relevant, since the service’s Metroplex-area facility covers 46 counties — including Cooke County, all of them susceptible to floods, high winds and “supercells,” which are thunderstorms with persistent cyclone rotations that can become tornadoes.
Supercells are a common topic at the annual Gainesville seminar. They have special characteristics, such as a duration of more than 30 minutes, a beaver-shaped tail and an absence of rain at the base.
Intense storms with durations longer than a half-hour, Huckaby said, are almost guaranteed to become more dangerous.
Only 10 to 15 percent of supercells that form, however, produce bonafide tornadoes. During the 2012 seminar, visiting NWS official Dan Huckaby admitted that if the NWS issued a tornado warning based on every supercell in the forecast, the public would suffer a massive false alarm rate.
He cited a series of 10 wind funnels throughout north Texas in April 2012 that belonged to the same storm system responsible for a severe, destructive tornado in Tuscaloosa County, Ala.
But many of those funnels were mistaken for tornado-grade supercells more powerful than they were, and this was due to a lack of information about storm features.
“We had some wind damage but no tornadoes,” Huckaby said in 2012, adding that during a storm, NWS radar can’t detect the ground-level storm traits that an informed spotter can see up close. “As storm spotters, you not only help us but the entire community as a result.”
For more information on this or other National Weather Service programs the website visit www.weather.gov/.