National Weather Service uses storm spotters to help track severe weather

National Weather Service officials say they don’t just rely on Doppler radar to track storms -- they also have eyes on the ground. 

Friday evening, as the rain and wind blew through Flagler County, potential storm spotters learned how they could help during the next one. 

"I’m so afraid of thunderstorms but it breaks my fear a little bit," said Nicole Walls, who was in attendance. 

The NWS says they rely on volunteers - everyday people – to let them know exactly what they’re seeing when a system moves through. 

"This is a perfect example of why we do this type of class. Because technology, while it’s great, sometimes does need maintenance. Our Doppler radar is almost 30 years old," said Ben Nelson, an NWS meteorologist in Jacksonville.

Throughout Friday’s storms, officials said the Jacksonville tower is down for unscheduled maintenance. The tower covers Marion County.  

FOX 35 has previously reported on a tornado dead zone in that same area. Because the closest radars are so far away, parts of Marion, and Sumter counties – including the Villages – may be out of reach for detecting small tornadoes. 

Luckily, Nelson says that should not be an issue tonight. 

"We should be able to diagnose with the radars in Melbourne and Tampa just what the severe impact would be for the Marion County area," Nelson explained. 

During the storm spotter class, people will learn how to identify severe thunderstorms and what type of information they should pass on to weather officials. 

For more information on the program – click here: