Hector Guerrero is the Warning and Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Angelo. One of his many duties is training Skywarn weather spotters around the Concho Valley. He teaches approximately 20 classes a year and those classes usually have anywhere from 25 to 35 students. The majority of the students are firefighters and law enforcement officers.

“Radar is a good tool to use but nothing replaces the eyes of the people in and around the weather event,” Guerrero said in regard to how valuable the Skywarn weather spotters are. “You may not be in the part of a storm that generates a hurricane but you might be in the part that is experiencing wind sheer or hail and that can help us know which direction the storm is going and what it’s going to do in the immediate future. The more eyes we have, the better off we are. You have to be looking in the right place of the storm at the right time to see severe weather.”

Guerrero has held several classes out in Ballinger and Winters and spoke to the importance of having weather spotters in Runnels County.

“Radar can not see an individual tornado, especially in the remote areas like Ballinger and Winters,” Guerrero said. “Up to the minute spotter reports coupled with what the radar is showing us add validity to the information that we’re putting out.”

Guerrero usually conducts the classes in the late winter or early spring, before the threat of spring storms become a reality.

When it comes to fire departments and law enforcement, many agencies go through the dispatchers to report the weather. The dispatchers then relay the information to the National Weather Service. There is also a weather app that Skywarn weather spotters can use called, mPING.

NOAA, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration describe the app as, “crowdsourcing weather reports.” Spotters can also upload reports on the website, www.spotternetwork.org. With the spotters having several different options for reporting severe weather a more complete report can be assembled quickly.

Civic or professional groups can request a class on Skywarn weather spotter training. Earlier this year, Guerrero gave one at the request of the Ballinger Lions Club. He said that 19 people showed up for that class which 19 more sets of eyes to raise the alarm in the event of severe weather.

Since 2014, almost one 100 new spotters have been trained just in Ballinger and Winters. Just in 2018 alone, Skywarn spotter classes have been held in Winters, Eden, Eldorado, Abilene, Sterling City, Brady, Brownwood, Stamford, Coleman, Sweetwater, Menard, Ballinger, Sonora, Albany, San Angelo and Throckmorton. Couple that with the fact that the NWS has been conducting Skywarn classes in this area for over 20 years and you have a significant number of people that have been trained as weather spotters.

Guerrero is available by email at hector.guerrero@noaa.gov or by calling the NWS office in San Angelo at 325-944-9445.