PEKIN — The Tazewell County Emergency Management Agency is looking for people interested in becoming part of the storm warning process.

TCEMA is partnering with the National Weather Service in Lincoln and the Par-A-Dice Hotel to present a weather spotters class at 6:30 p.m. March 15 at the Par-A-Dice Hotel, 21 Blackjack Blvd., East Peoria. The three-hour class is free. 

TCEMA Director Dawn Cook said the organization currently has approximately 25 spotters that it uses during an outbreak. With the recent tornados in Green Valley and Delavan, and the Feb. 28 outbreak that spawned 15 tornados in one day, Cook said there have been calls from people interested in the course. A desire to be a volunteer weather spotter is not required.

“The class that we put on is just kind of general,” said Cook. “It’s for awareness for anybody who wants to come, so we don’t limit it to those who want to become a weather spotter or join TCEMA.

“If you just want to know about what to look for when a storm is coming, that sort of thing, you can do that. To become a weather spotter you have to become a volunteer, which you have to go through an application process for us to become an EMA member. Once you become an EMA member, they can go out and weather spot.”

Storm spotters are a vital part of the weather alert system, said Cook. 

Spotters report to the communications center during an event and the information is relayed to the National Weather Service in Lincoln. Spotters are always out for a storm warning and, most of the time, for a storm watch, so there is advanced notice of when the storm will start coming into the county, said Cook.

Cook said there is not really a shortage of storm watchers — it all depends on the time of day and work schedules. Typically during a storm there are 15 to 20 storm watchers activated.

“That’s why it’s always nice to have a few more so that we have more of a pool to pull from,” she said.

Cook said storm watchers need to have an interest in the weather “to keep them interested because storms don’t happen all of the time.”

An applicant has to be 18 and older, attend the class, “and somebody that’s sensible, aware of safety precautions and that sort of thing. We don’t advocate storm chasing, we advocate storm spotting, which is staying out of harms way, not seeking out a storm per se — so level headed,” said Cook.

The class will include information on the role of storm spotters; thunderstorm development and features; types of storms that occur in Illinois; types of tornados, landspouts and gustnadoes; non-tornadic severe weather; resources for spotters; spotter safety; and effective spotter reports.

According to AccuWeather, “a gustnado is a short-lived, ground-based swirling wind that can form on the leading edge of a severe thunderstorm.

According to WeatherNation, a landspout begins by horizontal tubes of air that get lifted upright by an updraft of a thunderstorm. “Usually, there are no wall clouds that are associated with landspouts,” according to the website.

The class is an annual event typically attended by 100 to 150 people.

“I’m sure, I would guess this year, since we’ve already had a couple of storms roll through, it seems to generate a little bit more interest especially with the interesting wall clouds that have come through the last couple of weeks,” said Cook.

For more information, contact the Tazewell County Emergency Management Agency at 925-2271.

Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin