The National Weather Service (NWS) has a program called SKYWARN, which is comprised of severe storm spotters. Even with highly advanced doppler radar, forecasters still need ground observations, especially when funnel clouds and tornadoes occur.
The NWS holds occasional SKYWARN training classes, which are free and last about 2 hours. During these classes, you will learn how to identify various severe weather phenomenon — like what is the difference between a scud cloud, a wall cloud, a funnel cloud, etc.
Below are links to upcoming SKYWARN classes across Virginia. If you are interest in becoming a SKYWARN spotter, or just want learn more about identifying severe weather for your personal education, check out one of the classes!