As we prepare for the upcoming severe weather season, the line between the community and the National Weather Service (NWS) can be shortened by taking a SKYWARN Spotter training class and becoming a part of this volunteer program.
Photo courtesy of Earline Hindbaugh
Thunderstorms, tornadoes and lightning cause hundreds of injuries and deaths and billions in property and crop damages each year. To obtain critical weather information, the NWS established SKYWARN. SKYWARN is a volunteer program of trained severe weather spotters. These volunteers help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service.
Although SKYWARN spotters provide essential information for all types of weather hazards, the focus is reporting on severe local thunderstorms. In an average year, the United
States experiences more than 10,000 severe thunderstorms, 5,000 floods and more than 1,000 tornadoes.
Since the program started in the 1970s, the information provided by SKYWARN spotters, coupled with Doppler radar technology, improved satellite, and other data, has enabled NWS to issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods. SKYWARN storm spotters are the nation's first line of defense against severe weather.
Who is eligible and how do I get started?
NWS encourages anyone with an interest in public service to join the SKYWARN program. Volunteers include police and fire personnel, dispatchers, EMS workers, public utility workers and other concerned private citizens. Individuals affiliated with hospitals, schools, churches and nursing homes or who have a responsibility for protecting others are encouraged to become a spotter. Training is free and typically lasts about 2 hours.
You'll learn the following:
• Basics of thunderstorm development
• Fundamentals of storm structure
• Identifying potential severe weather features
• Information to report
• How to report information
• Basic severe weather safety
SKYWARN Spotter Classes are offered free of charge from the combined efforts of your local National Weather Service Forecast Office and local government, local civic groups, or centers of higher learning.
The NWS conducts the training in partnership with local emergency management officials who, in most cases are responsible for maintaining their local storm spotter network.
The Spotter Training classes are taught by a National Weather Service meteorologist and are designed to educate the public on weather threats in the area, as well as strengthen the ties between the NWS and the local community.
The more spotters the NWS has out there, the faster vital information gets to the NWS forecasters who make the decisions to issue life-saving weather warnings.
Click here to see if a spotter training class is offered in your Texas county. You can also enroll in an online spotter training course by clicking here.