With 2008 approaching, the National Weather Service in Fort Worth is ramping up its preparedness efforts for the spring severe weather season.

From Jan. 7 through April 8, staff from the NWS Forecast Office will conduct coordination visits with media and emergency management staffs, awareness and safety talks, and storm spotter training classes. The staff has more than 50 stops – including Ellis County – scheduled for the 2008 tour.

The tour has three primary goals: to ensure that communications between the Fort Worth NWS Office and emergency officials across north Texas are as efficient as they can be, to provide training to the storm spotter groups across north Texas and to ensure that residents in the area are as prepared as they can be for the upcoming severe weather season.

“The 2007 storm season was one that will go down in history. We had it all, from widespread devastating flooding, to large damaging wind events, to tornadoes and hail,” said Gary Woodall, warning coordination meteorologist at the Fort Worth office. “We certainly don’t hope for a repeat in 2008, but we must prepare for whatever the year has in store. During our awareness tour, we aim to enhance the already-strong spotter network, emergency communications and warning system and level of hazardous weather awareness, which is in place.”

As in past years, the Skywarn storm spotter training programs will be a featured part of the awareness tour. The spotter training programs discuss the formation and behavior of storms, the production of severe weather, environmental clues that can suggest the possibility of a tornado or other severe weather, spotter reporting procedures and safety tips. Nearly all of the Skywarn programs are open to the public.

“Storm spotters are a valuable component of the warning system,” Woodall stated. “Radar is a great electronic tool, but it does not tell us the whole story of what’s going on around a thunderstorm. Storm spotters complement the electronic data with their visual observations and reports. This, in turn, helps us provide the best possible service to north Texans.”

Coordination visits will also be a major part of the awareness tour. NWS staff members will meet with emergency officials and media outlets throughout their 46-county area of responsibility. The meetings will ensure that contact information and severe weather procedures are as up-to-date as possible. The NWS staff will distribute awareness material for use in the local area.

“Issuing warnings and statements for severe weather is one of our most important jobs,” Woodall said. “However, if warnings aren’t relayed quickly or if people don’t know how to respond properly, then the warnings will not be effective. The coordination visits help ensure that the warning system is as efficient as possible.”

To view the complete Skywarn program schedule, visit online at http://www.weather.gov/fortworth/sptrsch.html.

The National Weather Service in Fort Worth provides forecasts, warnings and weather services for 46 counties in North and North Central Texas.

For more information on severe weather and the National Weather Service, visit the Fort Worth Forecast Office’s Web site at http://www.weather.gov/fortworth.