- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) - The National Weather Service is looking for reporters, and it’s training community members through the SKYWARN program.

Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Roger Erickson presided at a recent seminar at LSU-Alexandria where he spoke about what to watch for when the sky darkens and the wind shifts.

The SKYWARN program has been around since the 1970s, and Erickson has been presenting seminars since the 1990s.

Each session is tailored to a specific area’s weather needs.

A seminar in Oklahoma, for example, would be tornado heavy.

The seminar in Alexandria focused on flash floods, tornadoes and hail, The Town Talk reported (https://townta.lk/1a44o9K).

“Even with all the technology - the Doppler radar - we still need real-time reports of what’s going on out there,” Erickson said. “People come through a SKYWARN class, and that going to give them a higher level of credibility.”

The free class gives tips on how to identify cloud types, how to tell if a weather system could produce a tornado and how to report weather conditions to the National Weather Service or local news organizations.

Pollock resident John Bladel, who called himself a weather junkie, said he learned quite a bit in the seminar.

“I’ve been watching the weather all of my life,” he said. “I grew up on the farm, and you had to watch the weather. Then I went into aviation, and you had to watch the weather.”

Bladel took 40 hours of meteorology courses while attending flight school, but the technology and terminology has changed drastically in the 50 years since then.

Friends Alice Gill of Alexandria and Peggy Bufkin of Boyce attended the seminar together because they have a common interest in weather.

“We’re weather freaks,” Bufkin said.

Bufkin and Gill said they wanted to learn more about hurricanes and severe weather, but just the idea of a weather seminar was enough to draw them out.

Like Bladel, Bufkin grew on a farm where watching the weather was as important as watering the crops.

“You never get over it,” Bufkin said. “You have a love for it.”


Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, https://www.thetowntalk.com

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