The ground is white and the air temperature is still well below the freezing mark, but Steinbach's Emergency Coordinator is already thinking about thunderstorms and tornadoes.
The Storm Ready season only starts May 2nd but Denis Vassart says he is now busy building his team. Vassart says right now he has about 24 storm spotters and is hoping to add another two or three.
Vassart explains storm spotters can expect to be on call every four weeks. When the weather looks right for thunderstorms, spotters are expected to watch the radar and go to a designated location looking for approaching storms. Then they file a report to Environment Canada, the Emergency Operations team and Golden West.
Vassart says storm spotters do not need a Steinbach address, but they should live within about 10 kilometres of the city. He notes it really isn't practical for someone living further away than that to travel to Steinbach and watch the sky in inclement weather.
The Storm Ready program started in 2008. Vassart says 2009 was the first season of storm spotting, making this their 10th year. Since 2011 they have been tracking results and Vassart notes there had always been a steady increase each year in the number of hours spent watching the sky, until last year. He notes last year was their least busy year since about 2012.
According to Vassart, the reason why their hours increase each year is a combination of more severe weather, but also because their storm spotters have become more active in their roles.
"We have had more watchable storms or more storms that we should be paying attention to," he says. "I would say the storms we are getting have more wind and that type of stuff in them than the ones we used to have."
Steinbach has Storm Ready certification and Vassart says they are probably the only city in Manitoba or even Canada with that rank.
"I don't think it has taken off the way I would like to see it grow," notes Vassart. "I feel as Emergency Coordinator for the city of Steinbach that it is a great asset for our community in that we have people that are willing to go out and watch and give us as much advanced warning as we can get for severe weather hitting us."
An information meeting is being planned for Thursday, February 8th at 7 pm at the Steinbach Fire Hall. Vassart says anyone interested in becoming a storm spotter this year is invited to attend this meeting.