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By Airman Alexis Christian, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 15, 2019
Greg Heavener, National Weather service warning coordination meteorologist, teaches the SKYWARN course to service members, civilians, contractors and dependents Oct. 3, 2019 on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. The SKYWARN course trains volunteers how to accurately report and measure weather phenomena to the NWS to confirm storms and increase weather warning time. (U.S, Air Force photo by Airman Alexis Christian)
Military members and civilians took part in storm spotter SKYWARN training Oct. 3, 2019 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. This training was made available for all individuals on base, including military, civilian, contractors and dependents to train volunteer storm spotters.
Greg Heavener, National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist and instructor of the course, said the training is important not just for the people taking it, but for the NWS as well.
“We are training volunteers across southern Colorado to report different weather phenomenon to our office,” Heavener said. “We rely on these reports to confirm storms. It helps to improve our lead time for our warnings so people have more time to take protective actions if they need to.”
Individuals who attended the class were taught meteorological terminology, how to understand different cloud formations and storms, and how to accurately report different weather phenomenon. This includes hail, tornados, damaging wind, flash flooding and snowfall.
1st Lt. Travis Hodos, 21st Operational Support Squadron flight commander for the weather operation flight, contacted Heavener to help bring the SKYWARN class to Peterson.
“The base is going through what’s called a storm ready certification right now, and part of that process requires having public presentations and awareness of possible impacting weather here on base, so SKYWARN helps to cover this process,” Heavener said.
The certification is not the only reason this class is important though, Hodos said. Volunteers providing reports to the NWS also impacts the mission here at Peterson.
“Volunteers providing reports to the weather station helps make our forecasts more accurate,” said Hodos. “With more accurate forecasts and conditions we are able to provide better data to the wing commander and other individuals who need weather information for operations. One example is snow call. If we get reports of higher snow accumulation and severe winds in certain areas, or unsafe road conditions, we are able to provide that information, along with the upcoming forecasts to the commander so he is better equipped to make that decision.”
The NWS and the weather squadron on Peterson works in tandem to help provide weather warnings for the base and local areas. If personnel are not at their computers to receive weather alerts, the NWS provides those alerts through their website and local weather alerts that come to their phones via the national alert system.
“Any weather alerts we send out, the flight services team also sends out to the base,” said Heavener. “The most important thing is for people to have multiple ways to receive these alerts. There are local alerts for phones, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Red Cross weather apps and weather radio. Having multiple ways to receive warnings is crucial for helping to keep you and your family safe.”