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Dozens attend annual Kendall County basic storm, tornado spotter class

YORKVILLE – With tornado season only just beginning in the northern Illinois region, several dozen Kendall County residents attended the annual basic severe storm and tornado spotter class hosted by the Kendall County Emergency Management Agency on Monday, April 8.

The two-hour evening class, which was taught at New Life Church in Yorkville, touched on subjects including the anatomy and life cycle of thunderstorms, the different types of thunderstorms and their strengths and threat severity. The class also touched on the difference between a funnel cloud and a tornado, which types of clouds are harmless and which ones could mean severe weather.

Joe Gillespie, director of the Kendall County Emergency Management Agency, said the county agency has hosted the annual event for the public for about a decade now. He said spotters play a huge role in weather reports.

“It puts eyes on the ground and it puts confirmation to what they’re seeing on the Doppler radar at the National Weather Service,” Gillespie said.

Kendall County is one of 32 counties in Illinois that is storm-ready, according to the National Weather Service. That means there are several 24-hour warning mechanisms and communication systems in place for storm notifications within the county and host storm spotter training every year.

Gillespie said one of the goals of the class is not only to teach people how to spot storms, but how to do so safely and knowing what they’re seeing and how to report it to the National Weather Service. He said the target audience is anybody older than 10 years old, but he knows coaches and school teachers also have taken advantage of the instruction as people who now know what to look for when keeping an eye on the sky when kids may be outside.

If you’ve ever heard of a weather report being a verified storm spotter report, Gillespie said, the purpose of the annual class is to train people attending the event to be those storm spotters.

“You could have all of the best equipment in the world, but without confirmation of live bodies on the ground saying that equipment is seeing what it’s seeing, you don’t have an accurate weather report,” Gillespie said.

At the end of the class, National Weather Service officials gave the newly certified storm spotters a phone number only distributed to class attendees to report storm traits, such as high winds, the type of coin or ball that hail is the size of and the damage that either might have caused. New storm spotters also received certificates of completion from the weather and emergency management officials after the class.

Doug, Tina and daughter Grace Oldeen, all of Plano, were among the 80 to 100 people that attended the storm spotter class Monday. They said they came because they thought it would be good to learn more about weather after taking an interest in watching storms.

Doug Oldeen said he learned a lot, including that tornadoes more often rotate counterclockwise, but have been known to spin clockwise.

“I didn’t realize how quickly or slowly a storm forms,” Doug Oldeen said.

Tina Oldeen said there were so many storm characteristics to learn during the class, such as the different types of clouds that might be indicative of a storm brewing and whether the storm ends up being severe or not.

“And it was interesting, too, that just because it looks scary, doesn’t mean it is,” Tina Oldeen said.

Overall, the Oldeens thought they walked away from the spotter class with more of a feeling of preparedness when it comes to watching and reporting storms.

“Knowledge is power,” Doug Oldeen said.

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