With the arrival of spring, we know that severe weather is near, and there is a group of Colorado storm spotters using a special skill during those severe weather outbreaks… communication.
They are the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES). The Douglas-Elbert County branch held a training session Thursday to prep for the severe weather season.
“We have hail. We have lightning, and it all comes together. This is a very busy state. We all know the expression, just wait an hour and the weather will change. Welcome to Colorado,” said Jim Rooney, Emergency Coordinator at Amateur Radio Emergency Service of Douglas and Elbert Counties.
The radar beam sees what’s happening high in the storm, but storm spotters are needed to see the base of the storm, to the ground. The most dangerous part.
“So we provide the ground truth. We provide, hey this is exactly what’s happening on the ground, in real time,” said Ron Coffee, Public Information Officer at Amateur Radio Emergency Service of Douglas and Elbert Counties.
The National Weather Service will use the information these radio operators report when issuing or canceling warnings.
“Definitely provides an extra 5 to 15 minutes of warning on some of our storms, and we’ve been acknowledged multiple times by the weather service for that," said Rooney.
These guys are not storm chasers. With their system, they don’t need to chase.
“As one or more storms pop, we’ve got people who can be deployed to watch them,” said Rooney.
They spread out around the Douglas and Elbert County area, and are guided by an expert meteorologist working the radar from an office.
“It’s the coordination of our entire group that allows us to track the life cycle of the storm as it comes off the mountains, and rolls off into the plains,” said Coffee.
This group has storm experience and annual training from the National Weather Service, but it’s their expert communication skills that may add the most value.
“We’ve actually seen reports that we make, show up from the National Weather Service in minutes,” said Coffee.
The Amateur Radio Emergency Service is a national program, and there are 28 districts of these radio storm spotters in Colorado.