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Volunteer Storm Spotters Gather in Springfield

When hazardous weather strikes, sometimes the radar is unable to pick up certain conditions like a twister or the shape of a thunder cloud.When that happens, weather services rely on a dedicated Corps of volunteers to get out in the storm and report on what they see.Tonight marks the 10th annual Skywarn Recognition Day for those who volunteer their time and lives to chase storms and help relay weather warnings to local stations.KSMU’s Ryan Farmer talked with one of these volunteers to find out what it takes to chase the storm.
Pat Conway is a storm spotterConway-"The May 4th, 2003 outbreak we had in the area, I had gone out and was watching this F4 that of coarse destroyed Pierce City. And my clutch in my car failed and I couldn't get out of its way so I had to literally start the car in gear and shift without a clutch and get out of its way. And it was just a scary deal for me but was able to give the weather service some ground trooper information." Conway has volunteered his time for the past 10 years in Southwest Missouri, and seven years prior to that in East Texas.He has risked his life to keep others safe. Conway-"It can be very dangerous especially at nights. We have had a few close calls, and unfortunately there have been some spotters killed or really injured. Yes there is an element of danger but with your training you learn how to approach these things with caution."Ordinarily, Conway’s profession is working as a lighting and sound engineer.But he got into the storm chasing business after experiencing a tornado at an outdoor concert he was working on. He says even though it’s dangerous, the fact that his work helps to save lives makes it worth it.Conway-"Something to give back to my community. Just to help try to protect lives and property. Of coarse I don't look for any pat on the back. We are all self funded. We get no grants, no money from anybody. We pay for our own gas, we pay for our own equipment, we pay for everything. Its just the satisfaction of helping our communities during times of threatening weather."Conway is helping to organize tonight’s event, which brings together other storm spotters like him.Conway and the National Weather Service are inviting the public to come see what goes into being a storm-spotter.The event will highlight the technology used, and how these volunteers relay weather information to the authorities. Tonight’s event is taking place at the National Weather Services’ Headquarters, at the Springfield-Branson National Airport on West Kearney Street. The event starts at 6pm tonight, and runs for 24 hours straight.For more information, you can call 839-7122.For KSMU News, I’m Ryan Farmer.