First responders regularly monitor weather radar and activate sirens to warn the public to seek shelter from tornadoes or other severe weather. In May, 24 representatives from the city of Crystal Lake including fire rescue, police, Three Oaks Recreation Area and public works departments recently enhanced their skills in reading Doppler radar at a severe weather training session presented by MCC earth science instructor Paul Hamill and student weather technician Regina D'Amico.
The first responders traded sitting in rescue vehicles or command centers for a seat in a classroom where they watched a PowerPoint presentation and practiced hands-on exercises on radar interpretation. They also completed a quiz to test their knowledge.
"The first responders learned how to find severe weather on Doppler radar, such as how to detect hail, strong winds and tornadoes," Hamill said. "Radar is more than looking at bands of colors. They learned how to look for wind velocity and how tall the storm is, which is an indication of how powerful it is," Hamill said.
"Knowing how to read the radar, they can figure out how severe a storm is and where it's located and how strong the winds are. There are many ways to look at a storm using Doppler radar other than simply viewing the standard reflectivity screen," Hamill added.
The session is one example of the many ways the college serves as a resource for educational needs in the community.
"This training gives the first responders a better chance to be quicker responders because they will know where the brunt of a storm will be and can take steps to protect the community," Hamill said.
The participants agreed the educational session gave them an opportunity to hone their skills.
"We're fine-tuning our ability to read radar and look at different views," said Crystal Lake Fire Rescue Chief Jim Moore. "We need to know how to interpret the radar so we're able to make critical decisions with public safety in mind.
"We knew MCC had a professor in meteorology, so, we reached out to Paul Hamill who has been more than willing to provide education to our first responders," Moore said. "We put this partnership together with the college for community protection."
"We learned how to look at different views for radar, the limitations of radar, how to overcome the limitations, and how to verify information from radar to eliminate false positives," said Thomas Pollnow, Crystal Lake Fire battalion chief.