February 1, 1991 |
"They're out! They're out!," field radios crackled across the front. Explosions still rumbled in the distance, and helicopter gunships were still firing at Iraqi positions inside Khafji, but the Marines of the Third Division could breathe easier now. Their artillery spotters - trapped in the town and surrounded by the enemy - had escaped to safety. Wearing black knit caps and loaded like pack mules with backpacks, automatic weapons, radios and grenade launchers, two of the spotters smiled, but looked bushed.
May 7, 1989 |
Heavy thunderstorms ripped through the Chester County Library, followed by tornadoes, lightning, high winds and large hail. Don't worry, the library is still standing. The nasty weather was part of the National Weather Service's slide and film briefing April 27 for volunteer severe-weather spotters. Meteorologist Chet Henricksen said the volunteers provide a valuable service, even though severe weather doesn't affect the Philadelphia area as much as some other parts of the country.
May 30, 1986 |
Arthur Paul is watching. From his outpost on a ridge in Chester County, he scans the skies for an ominous sign, for a funnel cloud that could mean danger to residents in the surrounding gray-green hills or in Philadelphia, to the east. "If I can spot a tornado, that's going to save a lot of people from being hurt, and that's what I'm interested in," said Paul, 73. The retired carpenter keeps his vigil for the National Weather Service. He is a "spotter," part of a low-tech, volunteer early-warning network that weather forecasters are trying to organize nationwide.
March 17, 1991 |
When the sky blackens ominously and the wind howls, lithographer Edward Brady in Abington is watching. So is nurse Barbara Burger in Doylestown. And pilot Lola Tomlinson in Downingtown. And firefighter Dave Montana of Brookhaven. They are among 1,500 volunteers in the Philadelphia area - about half of them in the Pennsylvania suburbs - who serve as "severe weather spotters" for the National Weather Service. Despite decades of advancement in satellite and radar science, weather watching retains some undeniably low-tech methods for obtaining what the meteorologists call "ground truth.
August 8, 1997 |
Judging by her face, Justine Robbins, 13, of Plymouth Township, thinks highly of the trampoline. Her spotters are (from left) Charles Robbins, 8, Michael Robbins, 5, and Samantha Conrad, 11.
March 27, 2000 |
Their job was once described as tramping "around and around the rooftop circuit" - all without protection from the elements. The year was 1944, and the people who patrolled in circles were members of a volunteer home-front spotter unit that had been organized under the federal Office of Civil Defense, nicknamed the Ocey-Docey. The rooftop circuit was a narrow catwalk passage on top of the six-story Farmers and Mechanics Building at Market and High Streets, the tallest structure in West Chester.
April 17, 1988 |
Despite sophisticated radar equipment that can be used in predicting weather days in advance, the National Weather Service sometimes has difficulty keeping an eye on what's happening locally - a tornado here, a golfball-size hailstone there. For three years, the Weather Service in Philadelphia has solved the problem by enlisting the help of and training about 800 "spotters," volunteers who are trained to keep a lookout for rough weather. The spotters phone the Weather Service if they see large hail, ominous cloud patterns, extremely heavy rainfall or tree limbs falling in high winds.
March 5, 1999 |
Ellen Hui was in the right place at the right time when torrential rains began pounding her neighborhood with some of the worst flooding Lower Bucks County ever saw. She was home, near Langhorne, with most of the half-dozen radios she uses to report extreme conditions to a National Weather Service network. "I knew it was bad when it got super dark and rainy," Hui says. "It was pretty obvious - and pretty scary. " Hui, a 47-year-old mother and businesswoman, is a weather spotter.
April 13, 1988 |
Ardis Kuehne and her family like to backpack on Mount Washington in New Hampshire, where the weather is fickle. "The weather can get downright nasty up there, and it's good to know as much about it as you can," Kuehne said. The Merchantville family's interest in the outdoors and the environment led them to take weather-spotter training two years ago to teach them how to gauge wind speed and read the clouds. Ardis, her husband, William, and her son, Daniel, became part of the National Weather Service Severe Storm Spotter Network, which helps the National Weather Service issue storm warnings in time to help people.
May 15, 1988 |
For years, as a devoted listener to weather stations on the radio, James Law has noticed that the weather in Upper Oxford Township frequently differs from other parts of Chester County. When clear skies are forecast, he sometimes opens his door to find heavy rains. "It seems a lot of these reports are wrong," said Law, who has developed an interest in weather through his work as caretaker of meteorological equipment at a power station. So when Law heard about a program sponsored by the National Weather Service to train hundreds of volunteers to keep an eye out for rough weather, he signed up. About 50 residents of Chester County joined him, driving through a spring thunderstorm to attend a class in West Chester on May 5. Chet Henricksen, meteorologist in charge of the Weather Service's forecast office in Philadelphia, said that despite the millions of dollars invested in sophisticated radar equipment, severe local storms sometimes went unreported.