Weathering the storm: on-the-ground reporting key

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Upper Peninsula residents are a key part of weather monitoring particularly when dealing with severe weather.

HOUGHTON — While no storm chasing is necessary, Upper Peninsula residents form an important part of weather monitoring and storm response.

“We’re not expecting people to get out and chase storms, wait for them to come to you,” said Matt Zika, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service, Neganuee.

When the weather is active, real time information helps meteorologists make better warning decisions and helps verify weather reports, Zika explained at the annual Spring Weather Presentation and Storm Spotter Training. An involved population helps keep people informed and is a big piece of the overall warning puzzle, keeping people safe.

Despite advances in weather monitoring like Doppler radar and satellites, the technology has limitations making on the ground reports necessary. For example, the radar is often blocked from picking up lake effect in the Copper Country. The distance from the station also is a contributing factor as a higher level is being scanned often overshooting the low lying lake effect formations.

Additionally, weather features like waterspouts don’t show up on radar and neither do hail sizes.

When reporting hail, Zika recommends informants use coins and items like golf balls to reference sizes for consistency. Marbles, in particular, are not ideal for size reference he noted.

Though the U.P. isn’t an area of high risk for severe tornadoes or supercell storms, straight-line winds, hail, flooding and thunderstorms are not to be taken lightly.

“These are all the things we want to hear about as close to real-time as possible when the weather does get active,” Zika said.

Reports can go to the weather service by phone, be submitted via website at weather.gov/mqt, Facebook at NWSMarquette, Twitter @NWSMarquette or email via nws.marquette@noaa.gov. Ham Radio is even an option at WX8MQT or for those with smartphones the mPING App.

When dealing with severe weather, Zika warns residents that though tornadoes are a concern, straight line winds can cause the same level of damage while being more common in the area. In such situations, the weather can become very dangerous for campers, boaters and hikers who are difficult to reach with warnings and have limited options for shelter.

The coming storm line can usually be seen approaching and witnesses typically instinctively know to seek shelter. Trust that instinct, Zika said.