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
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
Weather Spotter Program
You Can Help
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
Spotters Receive from the National Weather Service
for the Community
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
Magnet and key chain
An official NWS rain gauge
Expert training in weather spotting and reporting with emphasis
Newsletters and periodic updates on the SKYWARN program
Spotters are Needed
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.
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.
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.
the program began
SKYWARN Program Today
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
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.
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:
storms grow (basic meteorology)
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
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.