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Missourians Take Classes on Spotting Tornadoes

It is tornado season in the Midwest, where the National Weather Service is training the public to act as tornado spotters. When meteorologists see storm patterns on radar that suggest a tornado is forming, they rely on the spotters to report on what's happening in the skies.

Missy Shelton of member station KSMU visited a class to train citizen storm-spotters.

Since the early 1970s, the National Weather Service has used spotters as its eyes and ears on the ground.

There are spotters in every state, nearly 280,000 of them nationwide. Many attend training sessions like a recent one in Central Missouri, where about 50 people gathered at Osage Beach City Hall on a rainy night to listen to National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Runnels.

There were several EMT personnel in the crowd, but most of the people weren't wearing any kind of uniform. There were amateur radio operators, retirees, even a couple of high school students.

During the training session, Steve Runnels of NOAA played storm video meant to teach the group how to identify dangerous situations that may not at first be obvious.

"You do not have to attend this class to spot a mile-wide tornado producing 250-mph winds bearing down on Osage Beach," Runnels said.

"If I can put you in a position to identify the type of thunderstorm you're dealing with before the storm produces its weather, in particular tornadoes, then we can save lives together."

With tornado season in full swing, it may not be long before the newly trained spotters put their skills to use.

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