National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

What is SKYWARN?

The effects of severe weather are felt every year by many Americans. To obtain critical weather information, NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, established SKYWARN® with partner organizations. SKYWARN® is a volunteer program with nearly 290,000 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 main responsibility of a SKYWARN® spotter is to identify and describe severe local storms. In the average year, 10,000 severe thunderstorms, 5,000 floods and more than 1,000 tornadoes occur across the United States. These events threatened lives and property.

 

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 part of the ranks of citizens who form the Nation's first line of defense against severe weather. There can be no finer reward than to know that their efforts have given communities the precious gift of time--seconds and minutes that can help save lives. For more information about SKYWARN...click SKYWARN Home

 

How to become a spotter?

  • To become a member of the team you must attend one of the severe weather/spotter training classes which are offered in the Spring and  early Summer. We will usually start posting training sites and times in January and February with the link to sign up:

  • You must be at least 18 years old to participate in the program. However, we do encourage children and youth to help adults, while learning the science of meteorology.

  • Once you have been trained, you will receive your own spotter number and information sheets on how to report.

  • We recommend refresher training every 2 years once you have been initially trained.

  • Supplemental Skywarn training is available through COMET at https://www.meted.ucar.edu/training_course.php?id=23

  • No Special equipment is needed!

 

For trained, current SKYWARN members, updated information and changes on the program can be found on our web page, via the "news of the day" under the link, Skywarn Spotter News

 

What to report:

 

Severe Weather

 

  • Tornadoes, funnel and wall clouds

  • Hail size of half inch diameter or larger Hail Size Chart

  • Winds sustained at 50 mph or higher and any gusts 58 mph or greater

  • Heavy Rainfall and/or flooding

    • 1.0" rain/hr or greater for urban areas.

    • 1.5" rain/hr or greater for rural areas.

    • Also Call 911 for flooding

  • Significant damage

  • River/creek flooding or flash flooding

 

Winter Weather

  • Heavy snow (snowfall rates 1" per hour or greater)
  • Blizzard (winds 35 mph or greater, and visibilities less than a 1/4 mile in snow/blowing snow.  
  • Dense Fog: 1/4 mile or less
  • Freezing drizzle (road surfaces becoming icy and slick)
  • Rain vs snow (changeover from rain to snow and vice versa
  • impassable roads and road closures due to snow and wind
  • High winds: 50 mph or higher. sustained and or gusts. 75 mph or greater in the mountains and foothills.

Where to report:

 

Local Resources

On-Line Severe Weather/Training Resources

Additional National Resources