Storm spotters vital to NWS


Staff Writer

IRON MOUNTAIN – National Weather Service (NWS) representatives were in Iron Mountain in an effort to recruit more local storm spotters and educate the public about severe spring and summer weather.

Megan Dodson of the NWS in Marquette said that volunteer spotters are a vital part of the NWS network, whether they are reporting temperatures, precipitation, or severe weather.

“Our technology has limitations,” she added. “We can’t do it alone.”

Dodson explained that NWS mainly uses radar to track storms. However, radar beams gain elevation and get broader over distance. As a result, radar can sometimes pass right over a storm.

In addition, radar can be blocked by mountains, and can pick up on non weather-related events like forest fires or insect swarms.

“People on the ground can report what’s really going on,” said Dodson. “Your firsthand reports add credibility to our warning system.”

Matt Zika of the NWS in Marquette said that although the Upper Peninsula is more known for snow storms than severe thunderstorms, it gets its share of both.

Since 1950, there have been nine tornados recorded in Dickinson County and six tornados recorded in Iron County.

Zika pointed out that tornados are more prevalent in the central Upper Peninsula. Delta County has the most with 10 recorded tornados in the past 62 years. Houghton County has the least with only one recorded tornado.

Last year, NWS documented five significant severe storms throughout the Upper Peninsula.

There was a confirmed tornado on June 8 in northern Marquette County, over the Eagle Mine area. NWS determined that the tornado traveled eight miles and had wind speeds that reached 95 miles per hour.

A June 19 storm swept through southern Menominee County. It brought strong, straight line winds to the city of Menominee, but there was actually some wind rotation in the Cedar River area. The storm knocked down hundreds of trees at the nearby Wells State Park.

Zika said that NWS was not aware of the damage until two days later.

“That’s a situation in which a spotter would help,” he said. “By the damage, we figured wind speeds were about 100 miles per hour.”

A gustnado, which is a short-lived, rotating cloud with high winds, was recorded in Channing on July 4. Wind speeds for the storm clocked in at 85 miles per hour.

Other severe storms occurred on July 9 in Menominee and July 29 in Kiva, which is located in southwestern Alger County.

Zika added that spotters should keep a few things in mind while reporting severe weather.

Regarding strong winds, spotters should report damage done and not try to estimate the wind speed. Regarding hail, spotters should compare the size to known objects like coins or sports balls.

Above all, spotters and the general public should remember to take caution when any type of severe weather is in the forecast.

For more information, contact the NWS in Marquette at (906) 475-5212, go to the website at, or find NWS on Facebook.

Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is