Fort Wayne organization to host class for volunteer storm spotters


FORT WAYNE — A local organization invites anyone who is interested in weather to attend a free class on how to recognize and report severe weather phenomena to benefit public safety. The Allen County branch of the national Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ACARES) will host the class at the Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza, Fort Wayne, Thursday, Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m. Scheduled speakers include meteorologists from ABC21, Fort Wayne’s NBC, Fox 55 and WANE 15. Allen County Office of Homeland Security director Bernie Beier and Consolidated Communications Partnership deputy director John Chavez also plan to speak.

The class is free and open to the general public, but seating is limited. ACARES therefore requests all who plan to attend, to register in advance at //

“This two-hour class will provide attendees the knowledge they need to help protect their communities from severe weather like tornadoes,” said Jim Moehring, emergency coordinator (team leader), ACARES. “Although we are a ham radio organization, people need not be hams to be storm spotters, so we welcome anyone who is interested in weather.”

Moehring said the “ground truth” that volunteer spotters provide is essential to the process through which the National Weather Service (NWS) issues storm warnings. He pointed out that this remains true despite advances in weather radar, because the beam from the NWS radar site near North Webster is 2,500 feet or more above the ground by the time it reaches Allen County.

Traditionally, meteorologists from the NWS Northern Indiana office near North Webster have presented spotter training every spring in Fort Wayne. Changes in the office’s responsibilities, however, led it to change its training schedule. As a result, NWS meteorologists won’t be in Fort Wayne until autumn of 2019 and then not again until spring of 2021.

“We wanted to assure that our members, and members of the general public have a chance to receive storm spotter education before this spring’s severe weather season,” Moehring said. “We therefore decided to devote our February meeting to a spotter class and to invite everyone to attend. Because NWS meteorologists aren’t available, we’re thrilled that four TV stations in Fort Wayne are sending meteorologist to help teach the weather-related material.”

A complete list of speakers and their topics follows:

  • Jim Moehring, Allen County ARES emergency coordinator (team leader): Introduction to the NWS SKYWARN program and the importance of volunteer storm spotters.
  • Jay Farlow, ACARES assistant emergency coordinator for SKYWARN: How storm warnings are issued and distributed. Also, storm spotter reporting methods and best practices.
  • Charles Ward, experienced storm spotter: Best practices to remain safe while storm spotting.
  • Bernie Beier, Allen County Office of Homeland Security director: The role of the Allen County Office of Homeland Security with regard to severe weather.
  • John Chavez, Consolidated Communications Partnership deputy director: The role of the Consolidated Communication Partnership (911/dispatch) in severe weather events.
  • Caleb Saylor, Fox 55 weekend meteorologist: Thunderstorm basics, including how storms form and become severe.
  • Caleb Chevalier, ABC21 weekend morning meteorologist: Types of thunderstorms, including those most likely to create tornadoes. Also, radar apps and interpretation
  • Jon Wilson, Fort Wayne’s NBC weekend meteorologist: Thunderstorm hazards, including straight-line winds, large hail, flash flooding and tornadoes.
  • Nicholas Ferreri, WANE 15 chief meteorologist: Cloud identification, including distinguishing scary-looking but benign weather from true threats that spotters should report.