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Storm watchers are ‘eyes and ears’ of Weather Service

Photo by Jason Kelley/Sierra SunSouth Lake Tahoe resident Simon Smith takes notes while observing weather in Emerald Bay for the National Weather Service on Wednesday. Smith is a weather watcher for the weather service.
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Simon Smith pointed out forming clouds over Lake Tahoe Wednesday that eventually led to a glorious thunderstorm show later that night.

He dispelled a few weather myths about Tahoe as well.

“There is a bad misconception in the area that we get thunderstorms because of the melting snow,” the South Lake Tahoe resident said. “That’s not true. You need warm air for thunderstorms.”



Simon, a 28-year-old U.S. Bank employee and weather fanatic, is just one of more than 500 volunteer weather spotters for the National Weather Service in Reno. Charged with informing the Weather Service of unusual or severe weather, the weather spotters look for thunderstorms, lighting, tornadoes, flooding and monitor creeks and streams.

“Our radar can’t see potentially critical low-level storm features,” said Scott McGuire, a hydro meteorological technician with the Weather Service. “Anytime you see anything, call us. Don’t assume that we already know its happening.”



Tahoe City residents Joanne and Jeff Hurst have been official weather spotters for three to four years, but said they’ve been weather watchers for years.

“I like doing it. First of all, you can’t help but see what’s happening with the weather [in Tahoe],” Jeff Hurst said. “Everything revolves around the weather here.”

During a two-hour weather spotter training class in Tahoe City Wednesday, McGuire and Gina Beninato, a meteorologist, explained why spotters are an asset.

“Sometimes we get one report. That’s all we need,” McGuire said. “We will put out storm advisories based on one report … We can’t ever really have a bad report.”

For weather-spotter Simon, charting sun, rain and snow is a way of life. Not only a storm spotter for the National Weather Service, Simon also serves as a co-op observer for South Lake Tahoe and has kept a detailed daily weather record for the past five years.

“They say we are the eyes and ears of the National Weather Service,” Simon said. “Spotters are volunteers. They keep an eye to the sky.”


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