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New eyes trained on skies for Florida's storm season

 

Date: June 03, 2017
Source: Sun Sentinel
Author:  Anne Geggis

 

The varieties of Mother Nature’s wrath that hit South Florida — including lightning, hurricanes and even tornadoes — means eyes on the skies are needed.

With a busier-than-average hurricane season expected, three dozen people came to the Broward County Emergency Operation Center on Saturday to learn how to spot severe weather. And after about four hours, they were officially certified as the first line of observation for the National Weather Service — SKYWARN volunteers.

“You are an integral part of the National Weather Service mission,” said Robert Molleda, a metereologist in the Miami office of the National Weather Service.

SKYWARN is the National Weather Service’s network of 290,000 people who are encouraged to call the weather service offices if they see anything that appears to be winds more than 58 mph, hailstones of more than an inch, or tornadoes.

What do winds of more than 58 mph look like? Molleda had some concrete examples: large tree limbs or permanent signs blown or damage to structures, to name a few.

The weather service holds two Broward County training sessions each year and Molleda estimated that more than 2,000 have been SKYWARN-certified here.

Fabiano Yamada, 44, of Miami, was there Saturday because he’s still getting acclimated to how much more happens here, compared with his native Brazil.

“I want to understand it more and how to transmit what I’m seeing,” said the engineer, who is also an amateur radio operator.

Yamada learned that even though the Midwest is known as “Tornado Alley,” Florida actually experiences tornadoes more frequently than that part of the country.

The Midwest is better known for the phenomenon because “we don’t get the big, killer ones,” Molleda explained. “The strong current of air that fuels thunderstorms and tornadoes is located across the middle part of the country.”

But, even though a Florida hurricane might be 100 miles from one’s location, don’t assume there’s nothing to see in the sky, Molleda told the class.

The rain bands that form tornadoes often spin off from the right front of the hurricane, miles away from the storm’s center, he said.

An early experience of that convinced Kristina Frisaro, 29, of Cooper City, that she might have a calling to be a weather watcher. As a 3-year-old at school, Frisaro remembers looking out the window and seeing a tornado approaching.

“Everyone else was scared, but I was fascinated,” she said. “It was so interesting.”