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Free storm-training event to be in Marion

Staff writer

Would-be storm watchers might be electrified by an upcoming free storm-training event.

Marion County Emergency Management will host the event.

“It’s a great opportunity for the public to learn what to look for and what to do when there is a severe weather situation,” Emergency Management Director Randy Frank said. “It’s kind of like a beginner’s guide to severe weather.”

He said Chance Hays, warning coordinator meteorologist with the National Weather Service will give a multimedia presentation on different types of severe weather.

Russell Groves, a rural Hillsboro storm spotter, plans to attend with his wife, Jeanne.

Groves said past storm spotter training events have included close-up photos and videos of adverse weather explained from a meteorologist’s point of view.

“We’ve been weather geeks forever,” Groves said. “It’s not really a matter of fear. It’s more like a matter of fascination.”

The Groveses watched the 1990 F3 Hesston tornado pass within a half-mile of their house when they lived south of McPherson.

“We did exactly what you weren’t supposed to do — we watched it go by,” he said.

Groves and his wife became active members of the NWS SKY WARN system about seven years ago after they attended a storm spotter training event.

“We took it a step further and became certified ham radio operators,” Groves said. “We both are qualified to send reports from other spotters in the area to the National Weather Service.”

Lincolnville Fire Chief Lester Kaiser also plans to attend in an effort to brush up on his storm spotter skills.

“I didn’t have a chance to get out that much last year,” Kaiser said. “It will be a good refresher. It’s kind of like if you don’t use it that much you lose it.”

He said most firefighters and law enforcement officials have storm spotter training.

Kaiser said storm spotters tend to have different methods for observing adverse weather.

“I usually try to get to high ground at a right angle from the storm about one to two miles back or more,” he said. “I’m just looking for a good vantage.”

Groves said storm spotting is not the same as storm chasing. He said storm chasers typically get a lot closer to storms.

“I’ve never had to run from a storm but I’ve had to move out of the way of things,” he said. “No two thunderstorms are the same.”

Groves said he usually tries to stay a couple miles out of the path of movement and away from any precipitation.

“One thing we do as spotters is keep track of how everything is moving,” he said. “If you understand how a thunderstorm works you know there are areas around it that are safer than others. I try to look at a storm from the back corner, which is where tornadoes and severe weather tend to start.”

For more information on the storm training event, call (620) 382-3462.

Last modified Feb. 18, 2016

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