DALTON, Ga. - Six-year-old Charlie Miller sat spellbound, chin cupped in his hands, as a meteorologist Barry Gooden explained how tornadoes rotate and why flash floods are so dangerous.
Charlie loves weather and constantly checks the Weather Channel before he and his brother go out to play, said his grandmother Leesa Honeycutt. So on Tuesday evening, Miller persuaded her to attend the free storm spotter class offered by the Whitfield County Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service.
More than three dozen people took the two-hour class, training them to be storm spotters for the National Weather Service.
When asked what he liked best about the class, Charlie said, "The tornadoes."
On April 27, he huddled in the bathtub with his family in their Fort Oglethorpe home when dozens of tornadoes hopscotched across the tri-state area.
Clarence Muse, deputy director of the Catoosa County Emergency Management Agency, attended the class along with several Catoosa County firefighters. Since the April tornado devastated parts of Catoosa County, Muse said, they have been working to become certified as a StormReady County by the National Weather Service.
The program teaches safety and communication techniques that can be used to save lives and property before and during a storm, the NWS website says.
The storm spotter class on Tuesday is part gaining that certification, Muse said.
"There is more of an interest in preparedness than ever before in our county," he said.
Gooden, a warning coordinator meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Ga., said having trained spotters scattered throughout the country helps the National Weather Service do a better job. People in the possible path of a storm also respond better when they hear eyewitness accounts of what is headed their way, he said.
In the last 10 years, Georgia has had an average of 35 tornadoes a year, Whitfield County Emergency Management Agency Director Claude Craig noted.
Those statistics are one of the reasons Joe and Anne Martin of Dalton decided to take the class. The couple moved to the area from Arizona about five years ago and were not accustomed to the violent storms.
"It is something to be better prepared and a way we can help if we need to," Joe Martin said.