Severe Weather Training in Wildwood Certifies Local Spotters
Tips from a TV weather expert prepare everyday folks.
Some visitors to Wildwood City Hall last week ran headlong into inhospitable weather.
But after confronting tornadoes, flash floods and lightning strikes, the visitors were official Level 1 "severe weather spotters."
In fact, they graduated with a special certification on Thursday, thanks to a lot of help and expertise from Michael Redman, who hosts The Traveling Weather Show. Since 1972, Redman's severe weather classes have turned thousands of everyday people into severe weather spotters, enabling them to report threatening cloud formations and file hail reports.
Redman retired as a radio system engineer after 36 years with the St. Louis County Police Department. He also managed the county's severe weather SKYWARN program and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service, bringing both national recognition.
One of the severe weather confronters on hand on Thursday was Leslie Lenz, who grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She moved to Missouri about eight years ago, she said.
"I'm not used to these storms," said Lenz, a stay-at-home mom from Wildwood. "I didn't grow up with them. They're particularly scary for me."
Figuring the best thing to do was to confront the issue, Lenz decided to attend Redman's evening class. Her decision paid off nearly immediately. Lenz wound up winning an attendance drawing for a weather alert radio.
She said she definitely plans to attend one of Redman's advanced classes to become a Level 2 spotter.
The class opened with a black-and-white, filmed segment of tornadoes, set to the sweeping theme of the 1958 western "The Big Country." Redman went on to show slides and later computer-relayed clips of weather irregularities. Among them was a lightning strike of the Gateway Arch on the St. Louis riverfront.
A few clips documented the devastating intensity of tornadoes. One was recorded by a security camera inside a bank as a tornado leveled it. Shot from behind a counter, the clip showed the bank's lobby, including the front windows and door and a popcorn dispenser. As time progresses, the weather outside became obviously more intense, until the camera showed the bank's windows being blown in.
Another clip showed a home being blown away by a tornado that advances from behind it. The clip was recorded by a bank ATM across the street.
The class focused primarily on tornadoes, including those that had struck in the St. Louis region. Images and clips were shown of different cloud formations. Among them were wall clouds, prior to spawning tornadoes.
Weather emergency safety and survival tips also were presented.
Each person who attended the class received a certificate designating them as a severe weather spotter, with their official spotter number listed. Spotters are asked to call St. Louis County law enforcement or weather authorities when they see severe weather developing. People aren't required to participate in future threatening weather activity, though it's desired, said Redman.
"We always need more eyes and ears out there," he said.
Redman generated some humor in the presentation. He showed a slide picturing what appeared to be a VCR cover of the movie "Twister," adding that some information about tornadoes has been hyped. Another slide showed a white bottle with black lettering that read, "Tornado Repellent."
"This will not work. It will not keep you safe from a tornado," Redman said.
One slide from him noted that 1 percent of tornadoes are considered violent, 19 percent as strong and 80 percent as weak.
Redman developed an interest in severe weather as a youth, following a 1959 tornado that birthed near Pacific and went on to hit St. Louis. At a young age, even Redman's mother survived a tornado strike from inside a school.
Interestingly enough, he pointed out his mother's maiden name was "Warning."
Kathryn Kuntzman is another who attended the class. A retired orchestra teacher in the Fort Zumwalt School District, Kuntzman, of nearby unincorporated St. Louis County, said she's followed the weather since growing up, because her father was a paper carrier for the former St. Louis Globe-Democrat newspaper.
To know whether the delivered papers would need to be wrapped, they kept tabs on the developing weather.
"We had a weather radio in our house in...," Kuntzman started, then paused. She then continued, "... 1970, when they first came out. I guess I got kind of hooked on it."
Now, she enjoys watching The Weather Channel, she said.