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  General Information 

The SKYWARN™ spotter program is a nationwide network of volunteers trained by the National Weather Service (NWS) that provide us with timely and accurate severe weather reports. These reports, combined with modern NWS technology, are used to determine what the storms will do next and to inform commmunities of the proper actions to take as severe weather threatens.

Despite the elaborate radar and forecasting equipment at the National Weather Service, we are only able to determine the potential for severe weather. We rely on reports from the public and law enforcement personnel. The National Weather Service needs real time reports of hail size, wind damage, flash flooding, heavy rain, and tornado development, in order to effectively warn the public. However, accurate and reliable information from the general public is difficult to obtain. The NWS has found that only regular training of weather spotters through programs improves the quality of information.

When hazardous weather occurs such as severe thunderstorms, floods, tornadoes, snow and ice storms, our volunteers report what is happening at their location. They are asked to report whenever certain criteria are met such as when one inch of rain has fallen, six inches of snow is on the ground, a thunderstorm is producing hail, or trees have been blown down. Reports arrive at our office via volunteer citizens with access to a phone, citizen band radio operators, or licensed Amateur Radio Operators. The reports are combined with radar and satellite data to determine what the storms will do next and are used to send out statements, warnings and short-term forecasts to the public.

Anyone interested in getting involved in SKYWARN™ need to satisfy only a small criteria. You must be at least 16 years old, be able to observe weather (though no instruments are required), and have access to a telephone to call in reports, or be an amateur radio operator.

You must take our SKYWARN™ class which is a 3-hour seminar that teaches you the basics of how SKYWARN™ operates, how to spot severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, what to report, how to report, and when. After the class, you are given a SKYWARN™ ID and certificate which confirms your training, and written instructions of what to report and how. There is no cost for the class, which is held at various locations throughout our region.

Questions? Email Ryan Sandler



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