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
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.