Storm spotters keeping communities safe in tornado detection ‘dead zone’

FOX 35 News continues to dig into the tornado detection "dead one," where minimal radar coverage is available to track severe storms. We are learning of a possible solution, although it doesn’t appear like it will be coming to central Florida anytime soon. That means storm spotters in the area will continue to play a critical role in the community.

"We check in, and then we are eyes to the sky’s is what we call it," said RACES Storm Spotter Doug Durkie.

Storm spotters like Durkie are activated by the National Weather Service (NWS) anytime there is a severe weather warning in their area. He and about 20 other volunteers make up the Sumter County RACES Storm Spotters who are trained to look for abnormalities in the sky to keep their communities safe.

"Especially the Villages." Said Durkie. "They’re not protected as well as us, so we’re kind of a warning system for the Villages."

The Villages is just one of the many communities across parts of Marion, Sumter, and Putnam counties that make up the tornado detection "dead zone." An area where radar coverage is minimal and as FOX 35 News reported Tuesday, the Federal Government has no plans of fixing.

"We’re supposed to die in our bed because those in charge decided not to set up a system that is giving us adequate warning? That’s absurd," said Dorinda Sears.

The NWS tells FOX 35 it has begun to lower radar angles in certain areas to help recognize smaller storms where there is a lack of radar, but Central Florida doesn’t appear to be on the lists of corrections. Instead, the NWS is relying on local meteorologists and spotters like RACES to keep the community safe.

"We play in important part and not only helping FOX35 but the National Weather Service and the good citizens of this great state," said Durkie.

 You, too, can become a certified storm spotter. You’ll need to take an hour-long certification class and learn how to use a HAM radio. From there, you can join the Skywarn Network that has become so pivotal in the "dead zone."

Get the most up-to-date forecast, sign up for weather alerts, and view live interactive radar for Orlando and Central Florida.

Watch FOX 35 News for the latest updates.