Reporters of the storm convene; Program trains weather spotters on severe conditions.
BRIMFIELD - The images of the June 1, 2011, EF-3 tornado that ripped through parts of town drew knowing nods from the approximately 60 people who attended yesterday afternoon's National Weather Service Skywarn training session at Hitchcock Free Academy.
After the three-hour session, given by Glenn Field, warning coordination meteorologist, and William Babcock, Skywarn Program Leader, from the National Weather Service office in Taunton, many in the audience signed up to become trained weather spotters and report severe weather conditions to NWS meteorologists, who use the reports to issue weather warnings.
Those warnings saved the lives of people in Monson, Brimfield, Sturbridge, Southbridge and Charlton a year ago when the storm, with winds of about 160 miles per hour, carved a 39-mile path through Central Massachusetts.
David Stanley, for example, went with his family into the cellar of the Paige Hill Road home he has lived in for 20 years when he heard a tornado was on the way.
"It destroyed our house and our forest," said Mr. Stanley, who said he has a panoramic view of the area which will allow him to get a good view of oncoming storms.
"We're surrounded by trees,'' said Emergency Management Director Richard A. Morris about his house.
"Dave's on a hill," added Mr. Morris, who said yesterday's session provided information important to residents of the storm-ravaged town
In an interview after a mid-session break, Mr. Babcock said about 6,000 weather spotters work in the Taunton office's coverage area, which includes all of Massachusetts except Berkshire County, along with Rhode Island, southwest New Hampshire and northeast Connecticut. Spotters can phone in their information or send in reports on the office's website.
More than 130 people attended a Skywarn training session last Thursday in Chicopee. Among those who attended yesterday's sessions, some were getting retrained as is required every five years by the NWS.
"I would say the tornado has sparked an interest in people who want to become severe weather spotters,'' said Mr. Babcock, before adding that many people have always had enough interest in the weather to become spotters.
Those in the audience learned what to look for in a rare supercell thunderstorm like the one that spawned last June's tornado, which usually features a wall cloud, which can produce a tornado, and a shelf cloud that precedes a squall line like the one that scared people in town a week later.
Cynthia Poirier lives on the Holland-Brimfield line and she was clear in explaining why she was at yesterday's session: "I almost got killed by the tornado driving home from Ludlow," she said.
First, her car was pummeled in Ludlow by baseball-size hail that sounded like machine-gun fire as it damaged her car. When she reached Palmer, the precipitation stopped as she was under the part of the storm that features such a strong updraft that rain and hail is kept in the clouds. When she reached Brimfield and took a turn on to Holland Road, two trees came crashing down but didn't hit her car, because utility wires kept them from reaching the ground.
Ms. Poirier, who like many other residents in Brimfield and surrounding towns, acknowledges she heads for the basement now when storms threaten, said she has resolved to face her newfound fear of bad weather and do what she can to warn people of possible severe weather.
Mr. Field said having trained weather spotters is critically important. He said during most severe thunderstorm warnings the Taunton office gets up to a half dozen, usually incorrect, reports of funnel clouds, which is a tornado that doesn't reach the ground.
"If we issued a tornado warning every time we got one of those calls, nobody would believe us when a real one comes," he said.
The people at the training session were shown the difference between scud, which is frequently mistaken for a tornado, and a twister that swirls upward into a thunderstorm cloud.
"The bottom line is report what you see happening, not what you think is happening," Mr. Field said.
CUTLINE: Glenn Field, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service, displays a slide with a count of tornados from 1950 to 2011 during a severe storm spotter session yesterday at Hitchcock Free Academy in Brimfield.
PHOTOG: T&G Staff/TOM RETTIG
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||LOCAL NEWS|
|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Jun 3, 2012|
|Previous Article:||Oakham meeting is district's first test; Voters to consider Quabbin budget.|
|Next Article:||Voters to decide dueling budgets in Sturbridge; Committees vs. citizen petition.|