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What is SKYWARN?

The National Weather Service in Amarillo utilizes various spotter networks for severe and other inclement weather verification and reporting.  The various spotter networks are comprised of emergency management officials, law enforcement, fire fighters, EMS personnel, road crews, the general public, and amateur radio operators.

Formed in the early 1970s, SKYWARN, is the National Weather Service program of volunteer severe weather spotters.  SKYWARN volunteers support their local community and government by providing the NWS with timely and accurate severe weather reports.  These reports are used to inform communities of approaching severe weather.  Like the NWS, the focus of SKYWARN is simple -- to save lives and property.

Since the early 1990s, the WSR-88D doppler radar) has provided valuable information to forecasters with better detection of severe storm phenomena and more accurate and timely warnings.  However, even with the advance in technology, "ground truth" is still a very important part of the warning process.  "Ground truth" is what is actually occurring.  More specifically, is a storm tornadic?  Is it producing large hail?  How about damaging winds?  Most of the "ground truth" is provided by trained storm spotters who are the eyes of the NWS.

Who can be a spotter?

The simple answer is anyone.  SKYWARN is an open volunteer organization, meaning that we accept reports from anyone in the public whether they have an amateur radio license or not, whether they are out in their cars observing a tornado, or in whether they are home on their cell phone or on their ham radio.  The main priority with our weather spotter program is safety.  Although we value spotter reports, we ask that you only report if it is safe to do so.

To be a good storm spotter, we are looking for people who:

  • give concise, meaningful weather ground truth information
  • are safe and defensive drivers
  • refrain from giving unncessary weather reports*
  • have equipment that functions to provide weather reports
  • continue to improve their weather education through spotter training sessions

*What to report:

  1. Tornadoes or funnel clouds
  2. Hail of any size
  3. Winds sustained at 40 mph or higher and any gusts 58 mph or higher
  4. Snowfall, total snow depth, freezing rain
  5. Significant damage
  6. River/creek flooding or flash flooding

How can I become a spotter?
  1. Attend a live spotter training session
  2. Complete FREE online training modules* (see below)
  3. Register with eSpotter

*After you have completed both courses, you must e-mail/forward a copy of your electronic certificate of completion to Krissy Scotten at Kristin.Scotten@noaa.gov.  In your e-mail, please include your name, address, and phone number so that we can register you as an official spotter.  Your contact information will not be distributed outside of NWS Amarillo.

Online Spotter Training
Role of the SKYWARN Spotter SKYWARN Spotter Convective Basics
 
Weather Spotter's Field Guide


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