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Pocatello, Idaho
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Eastern Idaho SKYWARN™ Spotter Program

All training is open to the public with no cost to attend. Bring a friend!

The National Weather Service's mission is to protect life and property and enhance the economic well being of our community through effective weather forecasts, warnings and awareness. To help accomplish this mission we have installed advanced weather radars, improved satellite data, and developed powerful atmospheric computer systems. However, due to the complexity of eastern Idaho's terrain, some dangerous storms may go undetected. This is where the weather spotter steps in. They are our eyes and ears in the local community.

The NWS in Pocatello works closely with county emergency managers and officials throughout south central and eastern Idaho to organize and schedule weather spotter training classes. The training sessions are free and the public is invited. For a schedule of upcoming spotter training classes, please see the table below. Training lessons last about 1 1/2 hours and include information on NWS operations, products and services, as well as spotter procedures. Each class is tailored to your local area. Training classes are combined with COCoRaHS training requirements unless otherwise noted.

Why is spotter training so valuable? Trained spotters provide vital information about strong thunderstorms, damaging winds, hail, flooding, heavy snow, etc. (i.e. The Big Storms that impact our communities). Without such a network, serious weather events may go initially unnoticed resulting in unwarned and unprepared communities.

SKYWARN Weather Spotter Training Schedule
UpcomingTimeCommunityLocation


If you are not able to attend a SKYWARN Spotter class, but would still like to take a training refresher, two online training courses are also available. After completion of the course, please email your Certificate of Completion to Vern Preston.

SKYWARN Weather Spotter Program
  • SKYWARN is a network of hazardous weather spotters who help provide real-time severe weather information to the National Weather Service and emergency managers.
  • Storm spotters are an integral part of the NWS warning decision-making process; their reports are invaluable in making accurate and timely forecasts and warnings.
  • Being a volunteer spotter takes very little time - only a minute or two to notify the weather service when adverse weather is observed. Each volunteer establishes times when a weather forecaster may call.
  • Spotter reports are used by local media sources during and after a weather event.
How You Can Help

The National Weather Service is working with each Idaho county's emergency manager to provide spotter training and recruit new spotters. You can help by printing information about our SKYWARN program in your paper and asking for volunteers. You can help by printing information provided by your county emergency manager on spotter training dates. You can help by having your newspaper become an official spotter (if not already so) or anyone on your staff.

Why is a Trained Spotter so Valuable?
  • The National Weather Service's mission is to protect life and property and enhance the economic well being of our community through effective weather forecasts, warnings and awareness. To help accomplish this mission, we have installed advanced weather radars, improved satellite data and advanced atmospheric computer programs. However, due to the complexity of eastern Idaho's terrain and weather, some dangerous storms may go undetected. This is where the weather spotter steps in. They are our eyes and ears in the local community.
  • Trained spotters provide vital information about strong thunderstorms, damaging winds, hail, flooding, heavy snow, etc. (i.e. The Big Storms that impact our communities). Without such a network, serious weather events may go initially unnoticed resulting in unwarned and unprepared communities.
  • Weather radar tells us about rotation in thunderstorms, but trained weather spotters can tell us if a tornado actually formed and precisely where it is located.
  • Radar tells us general areas where precipitation is falling, but a trained weather spotter can tell us what type of precipitation is falling and how much.
  • Radar tells us there is hail in a thunderstorm, but spotters can tell us how large it is.

Anyone can be a Spotter!

A school teacher, school bus driver, a farmer, emergency services personnel (sheriff, police, fire fighters, EMTs), pilots, county road crews, postal workers, virtually anyone.

What Spotters Receive from the National Weather Service
  • A variety of color weather brochures on thunderstorms, tornadoes, floods & flash floods, winter storms, basic and advanced storm spotting
  • Special weather spotter reporting information wallet card and forms
  • Magnet and key chain
  • An official NWS rain gauge
  • Expert training in weather spotting and reporting with emphasis on safety
  • Newsletters and periodic updates on the SKYWARN program
Benefits for the Community
  • Trained spotters provide the most reliable real-time information to our forecasters. Spotters help us make tough warning decisions which often times improve the timeliness and effectiveness of weather warning response.
  • Trained spotter information is broadcast via radio and television during the severe weather event which may save lives and property.
  • Trained spotter information can help locate areas where emergency responders may need to provide their assistance.
  • Gives our communities a sense that local citizens are interested in achieving a certain level of protection and safety from hazardous weather.
  • May provide valuable input to local hazardous weather mitigation programs and requirements administered by an emergency manager.
Where Spotters are Needed

Eastern Idaho currently has around 800 volunteer spotters with most being concentrated in our larger communities. We are especially looking for new volunteers in rural areas and small towns. We are also looking for spotters on perimeter areas of our larger cities like Burley, Blackfoot, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Rexburg, and Sun Valley vicinity and we will accept anyone who is willing to take the spotter training.

How do I sign up to be a SKYWARN Spotter?

Contact your local National Weather Service in Pocatello at:

National Weather Service
1945 Beechcraft Ave
Pocatello ID 83024

or call (208) 233-0834 or 1 (800) 877-1937 extension 2.

How the program began
  • During 1942 and 1943, the Weather Bureau (now called the National Weather Service) cooperated with the military in setting up volunteer storm spotter networks to protect military installations, and recognized the value of first hand, real-time information.
  • Primary concern was for lightning near ordnance plants, but the program grew substantially during the war, and the spotter mission expanded to include other hazardous weather, including tornados.
  • After WWII, spotter networks were maintained for military installations.
  • A Tornado on May 25, 1955, in Udall, Kansas killed 80 people and injured 273; NWS decided to train severe weather spotters to provide real-time data.
  • The NWS decided to recruit severe weather spotters to help obtain real-time severe weather information in order to help extend lead time and increase accuracy of severe weather forecasts.
  • On March 8, 1959, in Wellington, Kansas, the NWS held the first training course for 225 severe weather spotters.
  • In 1965, the Natural Disaster Warning System (NADWARN) was established to coordinate the natural disaster-related emergency functions of various Federal agencies; a special, tornado-specific plan called SKYWARN, under the guidance of the National Weather Service, was created.
The SKYWARN Program Today
  • Today, SKYWARN consists of a network of volunteer all-hazards weather spotters, who report information on more than just tornados.
  • Nationwide, the NWS has 167,679 trained all hazard weather spotters in the SKYWARN program. These spotters work with the Warning Coordination Meteorologists (WCM) at the 121 Weather Forecast Offices throughout the United States.
  • SKYWARN spotters receive approximately 2 hours of training provided by the NWS, which covers:
    • How storms grow (basic meteorology)
    • How to observe weather safely (how to observe severe weather without getting in the way of it), and general weather safety
    • How to report severe weather conditions
  • Some spotters report from their homes using telephones; others go to a designated area and report to the Weather Forecast Office and Emergency Managers simultaneously by amateur radio. Providing valuable weather reports usually takes less than a minute.
  • Sometimes a NWS forecaster may contact the volunteer spotter for information. The spotter establishes times when they may be called.
  • SKYWARN Amateur Radio communication is particularly valuable in cases where communication with counties might be cut off by weather conditions.
  • NWS also receives some reports on Internet, which is particularly valuable for winter weather and rain information.
  • SKYWARN spotters are all volunteers; they serve without payment or remuneration.

Thank you for taking the time to read and learn about the National Weather Service SKYWARN program and assisting our community in preparing for hazardous weather. We will contact you when we receive spotter training dates from your county emergency manager for inclusion in your paper's community calendar.

If you would like to discuss this program or any National Weather Service product or program, please call Vernon Preston - Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM), Dan Valle - Assistant WCM, John Keyes - Assistant WCM & SKYWARN Weather Spotter program leader, or Rick Dittmann Meteorologist-in-Charge at (208) 232-9306 or (208) 233-0834.


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US Dept of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Weather Service
Pocatello Weather Forecast Office
1945 Beechcraft Ave
Pocatello, ID 83204

Tel: (208) 233-0834
Recorded Forecast: (208) 233-0137

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