National Weather Service needs New Mexico volunteers to eye the sky

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ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – New Mexico’s crazy summer weather is on the way, and the National Weather Service thinks you can help save lives. The NWS is looking for storm spotters to give everyone else a heads-up before the storm hits them.

The weather in New Mexico is as diverse as it’s dynamic, and the NWS hopes to grow its SKYWARN public safety partnership.

“Our spotters are the eyes and ears, if you will, of our operation,” said Kerry Jones, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.

The NWS is on a mission to recruit and train more SKYWARN spotters.

“We rely on them extensively, especially this time of year as we get into our severe weather season,” Jones said.

When the skies open up, the National Weather Service depends on a good old-fashioned, proven forecasting technique: human observation.

“In fact, we have numerous cases where a SKYWARN trained spotter initiated a warning on our end,” he said.

More than 1,800 storm spotters in New Mexico can take over where technology isn’t always perfect.

“For example, some areas up in the Four Corners where the radar coverage is not the best, we have trained spotters in that part of the state that will give us a heads up,” said Jones.

KRQE News 13’s Chief Meteorologist, Mark Ronchetti, said, “They’re critical in New Mexico because of how big our state is.”

Ronchetti added that storm spotters are invaluable this time of year with extreme weather on the way.

“Our big tornado season tends to really get ramped up in May and runs through the month of June, so that’s a real dangerous time when we talk about rotating thunderstorms, large hail, tornadoes. Those are the times when we really watch things here,” Ronchetti said.SKYWARN participants are volunteers. Training classes last up to 2.5 hours. Online training tools are also available from the National Weather Service.

Training this week takes place in Jemez Springs and Rio Rancho. Upcoming classes include Las Vegas, Tijeras, Socorro, Espanola and Santa Fe. Albuquerque will host a class on May 9 at 10 a.m. at the Bachechi Open Space Environmental Education Building at 9521 Rio Grande.

“It’s citizen weather science at its best, and you’re helping a greater good, right? It’s a team effort in terms of our public safety mission,” Jones added.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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