EMU's Ojala and crew are "eyes of radar" for threatening weather conditions
YPSILANTI - Just as the icy grip of winter gives way to spring, new weather threats may appear on the horizon. And helping to monitor the weather conditions is the ever-vigilant Carl Ojala, Eastern Michigan University's "Mr. Weather" and professor of geography.
Ojala has been watching and collecting weather information about the Ypsilanti area for more than 20 years and has data on weather conditions going back 35 years. With that data, he can authoritatively talk about the area's climate.
"We get an average of 40 inches of snow and 16 tornados each year," said Ojala, who is the exclusive instructor in Washtenaw County for the Skywarn Spotter training courses. These courses teach participants to identify severe weather and how to properly report their observations.
And thanks to EMU and Ojala, Washtenaw County has the largest Skywarn Spotter training program in Michigan, said Marc Breckenridge, director of Washtenaw County's Emergency Management Division.
"In 2004, Ojala trained 499 spotters and almost half (220) went through both the basic and advanced courses," Breckenridge said.
"Spotters save lives and reduce property damage. They are the eyes of radar," said Ojala, explaining that radar can't "see" a tornado, but only record that something suspicious is out there. Spotters do the rest.
Storm spotters know what triggers a storm and the types of storms that arise, specialized weather terminology and the difference between tornados and tornado look-alikes, said Ojala.
"A tornado is an horrific event and anything we can do to combat that threat, we do," said Breckenridge, whose division coordinates disaster preparedness planning, emergency communications systems and incident recovery activities for Washtenaw County.
To meet the demand for spotters, Ojala is offering the final classes of the season for spotter training.
"They are good classes," said Ojala, who will teach a basic spotter class at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 26, and an advanced class at 1 p.m. at EMU's Strong Hall's auditorium.
The two-and-a-half-hour classes are free, but fill up fast so pre-registration is required. Anyone 18 years old and interested in severe weather recognition is eligible to take the training.
For more information, contact Washtenaw County's Emergency Management Division at http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/emergency_management/index_html or call 734.973.4900.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.
Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.