Even in the age of high-powered Doppler radar, instant communications and the Internet, the National Weather Service and local safety officials still rely heavily on old methods for accurate observations and emergency communications.
Volunteer amateur — or ham — radio operators still play a primary role in providing on-site information about tornadoes and storm conditions to weather forecasters and letting emergency responders know what’s going on.
"There’s nothing like ground troops," said Keith Wells, assistant coordinator with the Tarrant County Office of Emergency Management, who was helping the National Weather Service on Saturday at the annual Skywarn storm spotter training session at Texas Christian University.
"One of the most important things we do all year is train the spotters," Wells said. "When you have a trained observer on the ground at Bryant Irvin Road reporting golf-ball-sized hail or a funnel cloud, that really tells a meteorologist what’s going on."
More than 400 people showed up for the training, most already members of Tarrant County RACES (Radio Amateurs in Civil Emergency Service). The volunteers are willing to fire up their radios and vehicles and often head out looking for storm action to provide instant observations to the weather service.
It’s a service that amateur radio operators have provided locally since the early 1970s.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegraph has the complete article here.