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Across the Nation, dedicated volunteers risk their personal safety to provide first-hand reports of hazardous weather, including floods, hail, damaging or destructive winds, tornadoes, wildfires, winter storms, and more, to their local officials, and the National Weather Service (NWS). The same occurs across the Rio Grande Valley and Deep South Texas. A Skywarn® Storm Spotter’s primary reason to become certified is to help protect the lives and property of the citizens across the region.

Being a storm spotter not only means dedication, but also training. Each spring NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley trains members of the police, fire department, emergency management (including health, education, transportation, land management and more), the amateur radio community, and public citizens in the latest storm spotting techniques. Typically the training is coordinated by a local group such as an emergency management agency, public health agency, or local media entity. An NWS meteorologist serves as the guest instructor.

The goal of the training is to prepare the spotter to identify hazardous weather conditions, how to report that information to the local NWS, and personal safety. This year, we’re taking a two–pronged approach to our training plan:

  • A spotter will receive a basic certification by taking both of the online courses, listed below
  • A spotter will receive a full certification by taking both of the online courses, and attending a live class or a live webinar (per partner arrangement)

 


Self-Paced Online Skywarn Training Courses

Note: These courses are NOT produced by the NWS office in Brownsville.

Skywarn® Spotter Training Intro **START HERE!**
This course covers the basics of being a Skywarn® Spotter. The goal of the course is to provide baseline training for all spotters through multiple modules covering the procedures for spotting, including communication and general spotter report criteria, as well as safety considerations for all hazards.

You can choose to register as a Basic Skywarn® Spotter with NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley by using the checkbox that appears after you Enroll in this course. When you check the box, you will be registered with us after passing the course(s).

Role of the Skywarn Spotter, Training Module

Role of the Skywarn® Spotter
Becoming a Skywarn® Spotter just became easier with the development of online Skywarn® Spotter training courses.  The first course, Role of the Skywarn® Spotter, provides baseline training for all spotters through multiple scenarios covering the procedures for spotting (including communication and storm report criteria), safety considerations for all hazards, and an overview of the national program and its history.

Role of the Skywarn Spotter, Training Module

Skywarn® Spotter Convective Basics
The second online Skywarn® Spotter training course will complete the requirements for a basic certification. Skywarn® Spotter Convective Basics, will guide users to a basic understanding of convective storms. Through three different scenarios, you will cover reporting and proper communication of local storm reports to the National Weather Service (NWS), personal safety during these events, and field identification of convective storm hazards. After completing the scenarios, you will be given the opportunity to practice identifying storm features from a spectrum of photos.

Skywarn Spotter Convective Basics, Training Module

Each course is free, but requires a simple and quick registration to access. This can be done from the links provided above and below. The Meteorological Education (MetEd) website provides education and training resources to benefit the operational forecaster community, university atmospheric scientists and students, and anyone interested in learning more about meteorology, weather forecasting, and related geoscience topics. MetEd is populated and maintained by the COMET® Program, which is part of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research's (UCAR's) Community Programs (UCP). The MetEd website is made possible by the sponsors of the COMET® Program. MetEd has a variety of interesting courses for scientists and non–scientists alike; feel free to browse the site for other courses.

Once you complete these two courses, email your certificate to Barry.Goldsmith@noaa.gov and you will be added to our spotter database. We will contact you to ask for information that will be added to our database. Within a few weeks, you will receive a certificate, welcoming letter, ID card, and bumper sticker. If you’re a Winter Texan, your County Identifier will match your temporary residence in the Rio Grande Valley. The ID will be in the form CCC–NNNB, where CCC = your County Identifier and NNN = your identification number. The trailing "B" after your ID number indicates you completed just the MetEd coursework and certified as Basic. If you’re interested in becoming a fully trained spotter in the Rio Grande Valley, you’ll need to follow the online courses with a visit to one of our in–person or webinar courses. Read on for details.


Live In–Person Classes

In–person classes complement the online courses by giving students the unique Rio Grande Valley "flavor". Since the online courses cover the basics of spotting and thunderstorm development, In–person classes focus on features in the sky and on the ground, with a short introduction on NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley, how to report hazardous weather, and severe weather climatology. Classes should take around 90 minutes, including sign–in, break(s), a short quiz, and class evaluation. Classes are typically scheduled between late January and the end of March each year.

Students who only complete an in–person or local webinar course will receive a certificate, welcoming letter, bumper sticker, and ID card as specified above, only the ID will end as number NNN. Students who complete both the online courses and an in–person course will receive the highest level ID, with the number ending as NNNC, where C = Complete.

2014 Skywarn® Spotter Training Calendar for the Rio Grande Valley

The following classes have been scheduled in early 2014; check back frequently here or on the calendar linked above for updates, including additions, cancellations, or rescheduled dates.

  • March 10th, 7 PM: Mission Fire Department (Thanks for Coming!)
  • March 19th, 9 AM: Brownsville, Central Library Classroom (Thanks for Coming!)
  • March 19th, 2 PM: Brownsville, Central Library Classroom (Thanks for Coming!)
  • March 19th, 6 PM: Brownsville, Central Library Classroom (Thanks for Coming!)
  • March 20th, 9 AM: Cameron County Health Department, San Benito (Thanks for Coming!)
  • March 26th, 10 AM: Pharr, City Hall (Thanks for Attending!)
  • March 31st, 530 PM: South Padre Island, Fire Station No. 1 (Thanks for Attending!)

 

Webinar Classes

Some partners have elected to schedule webinars. A webinar is similar to a live class, only conducted from a remote location. Participants will gather in a location of their choice – a meeting room at the scheduler’s office, or the comfort of one’s living room. Requirements to participate in the webinar include:

  • Laptop or Desktop with a stable, high–speed internet connection
  • Phone with mute option
  • Amplification system to ensure all can hear Webinar (for meeting rooms)

The following Webinars have been scheduled in early 2014; check back frequently here or on the calendar linked above for updates, including additions, cancellations, or rescheduled dates.

  • March 20th, 1 PM: Hosted by McAllen/Miller International Airport (Thanks for Viewing!)

Download our new Weather Spotters Field Guide.  (72 pages/ 27 MB)

For more information contact:
Barry Goldsmith
Warning Coordination Meteorologist
Phone: 956-504-1631 x223
E–mail: Barry.Goldsmith@noaa.gov

or

Blair Scholl
Skywarn® Program Coordinator
E–mail: Blair.Scholl@noaa.gov

Weather Spotter's Field Guide

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