National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Spotter Training

The National Weather Service (NWS) and local county emergency managers host spotter training classes across Iowa every spring. There are a combination of "in-person" spotter training classes scattered across the state and webinar-based distance learning classes. In-person spotter training classes are offered primarily in larger cities and towns, but also in several rural counties and smaller towns. Every county in the NWS Des Moines County Warning Area (CWA) will likely have an in-person spotter training class at least every other year. The webinars are open to all spotters.

At least one "advanced" spotter class is offered and builds on what is taught in the regular class. It is intended for those who wish to do mobile spotting and desire a deeper understanding of mesoscale and storm-scale meteorology as it relates to storm spotting. Spotters interested in attending this class should have attended either a regular in-person or webinar-based spotter class.

Spotter talks are open to the public on a first come, first serve basis. No prior registration is required. The schedule at the bottom of the page includes all talks that have been scheduled to date. Scheduling usually takes place in January and February, but not every county will have a talk.

Course Notes and Spotter Registration Information


In-Person Spotter Presentation Details

Multimedia presentation containing information about identifying & reporting severe weather, spotter safety, severe weather climatology in Iowa, thunderstorm structure and threats, and more
Runs 90 to 120 minutes in length, is open to the public, and free of charge. No prior registration is required.
Instructors are NWS Meteorologists - Questions are encouraged and welcome!

Hosted by emergency managers and a few amateur radio clubs

 

 

 

 

Storm Spotter Training via Webinar

April 4, 2017 at 7 PM

April 11, 2017 at 7 PM

Multimedia presentation containing information about identifying & reporting severe weather, spotter safety, severe weather climatology in Iowa, thunderstorm structure and threats, and more. Same as the "in-person" presentation!


Runs 90 to 120 minutes in length, open to the public, and free of charge. - First 250 people who go to the Join-Me web link provided will be allowed on the webinar!
Instructors are NWS Meteorologists - Real-time questions allowed!

Webinar Details: PC with at least 1.5 mb/sec download speed, Adobe Flash installed, and a phone (land-line or cell phone) are REQUIRED

  • Go to: join.me/nws-desmoines just prior to the start of the webinar
  • Call 1-866-231-8384, and enter the Conference ID 515-270-2614
  • iPhone/iPad and Android phone Join.Me applications can be downloaded at https://join.me. Smartphone user access is: nws-desmoines
  • NWS instructor will provide additional instructions at the start of the presentation





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Please click on calendar entry below to view more information about the training session.

Reporting Severe Weather

Reporting severe weather is essential! Regardless of the reporting method, each report must include the time & location of the event (and direction looking if applicable). Pictures tell a thousand words, but not when and where the weather occurred! If you do send photos, please let us know if you grant permission for us to use them in future spotter talks and outreach presentations.


How to Report:

Online: Use our online weather reporting form! For reporting tornadoes, please use our 1-800-SKYWARN telephone line.

Email: dmx.spotterreport@noaa.gov - A great way to include pictures & video.

Text Message: (515) 240-5515 - Text us reports and your phone photos/videos.

Telephone: 1 (800) SKYWARN - Must have been through severe weather spotter training and belong to a spotter network to use this line! Refer to materials received during spotter training.

Facebook: Visit our Facebook page and post a severe weather report to our wall.

Twitter - Tweet us your reports by including the #iawx or #nwsdmx hashtag or send them directly to @NWSDesMoines.

Amateur Radio – The National Weather Service group amateur radio call-sign is KØDMX.


What to Report:

With any report, please include your location (city or distance from city, street intersection, lat./lon.), the time of the event, and who you are (public, spotter #, law enforcement, etc.)

Tornado

Tornadoes

  • Distance & direction from your location
  • Movement (tornado direction & speed)
  • Impacts: Damage, injuries, or deaths
  • Tornado Behavior: Growing larger? Roping out?
Funnel

Wall Clouds & Funnel Clouds

  • Wall cloud: Rotating? Persistent?
  • Funnel Cloud: How far to the ground
  • Visible rotation with the funnel?
  • Dust or debris below the funnel?
    (if so, you have a tornado!)
 
Hail

Hail

  • Diameter of the largest hailstone (estimated or measured)
  • DO NOT report marble-sized hail!! Marbles vary widely in size
  • Damage to windows, cars, crops, etc.
Hail Size Inches
 Pea 1/4
 Dime 1/2
 Penny 3/4
 Nickel 7/8
 Quarter 1
 Half Dollar 1 1/4
 Ping Pong Ball 1 1/2
 Golf Ball 1 3/4
 Hen Egg 2
 Tennis Ball 2 1/2
 Baseball 2 3/4
 Softball 4
 Grapefruit 4 1/2
Wind

Damaging Winds

  • Wind speed (estimated or measured)
  • Damage to trees, power lines, and structures
  • Trees: Diameter of limbs snapped off and health of tree (old or rotten?)
Speed
(mph)
Designation Description
<1 Calm Smoke rises vertically
1-3 Light air Smoke drift indicates wind direction
4-7 Light breeze Weather vane moves, leaves rustle
8-12 Light breeze Leaves and twigs in constant motion
13-18 Mod breeze Dust raised, small branches move
19-24 Fresh breeze Small trees sway
25-31 Strong breeze Large branches move
32-38 Moderate gale Whole trees move, walking affected
39-46 Fresh gale Twigs break off trees, walking difficult
47-54 Strong gale Minor structural damage
55-63 Whole gale Large tree branches break
64-74 Storm  Widespread damage
 
Flood

Flash Flooding & Heavy Rain

  • Flood Impacts: Roads, houses, etc.
  • Depth of the water (estimated--use references such as cars or buildings)
  • Is the water moving swiftly or slowly?
  • Damage: Roads washed out, etc.
  • Rainfall amounts & how quickly it fell
Snow

Snow & Ice

  • Amount: (measured or estimated) Take multiple measurements and average them if possible.
  • Damage or impacts such as downed power lines, snapped tree limbs, cars off the road, etc.
 

Reporting Across Iowa:

Live in western or eastern Iowa? Click your location below to find out how to report severe weather. The light green shaded region is serviced by the NWS in Des Moines. Other color shades denote areas covered by neighboring offices.

IowaDVN ARX FSD OAX DMX

Outlooks, Watches & Warnings


Severe Weather Outlooks:

Day 1 outlook Day 2 outlook Day 3 outlook Days 4-8 outlook
Day 1 Outlook Day 2 Outlook Day 3 Outlook Days 4-8 Outlooks

Severe Weather Discussion, Watches, and Environmental Data:

Day 1 outlook Watches Activity Loop Mesoanalysis
Mesoscale Discussions Active Watches Outlook, Watches & Radar Mesoanalysis Data


SPC Sounding Analysis


Central Iowa Weather and Storm Reports:

Radar Weather Story Storm Reports Storm Reports
Current Radar & Warnings Weather Story Today's Storm Reports Yesterday's Storm Reports

Spotter Resources

The National Weather Service (NWS) and local county emergency managers host a combination of in-person and webinar-based spotter training classes across Iowa every year between late February and late April. For more information on these classes, please see the Spotter Training tab above.

In addition to live National Weather Service spotter training presentations, there are several online training opportunities available.

Online Resources

Other Training and Emergency Management Resources


Central Iowa Spotter Networks

NWS Des Moines Spotter Network

The NWS Des Moines spotter network is ideal for anyone who wants to report severe weather directly to the National Weather Service! There are over 4500 spotters all 51 central Iowa counties served by the National Weather Service in Des Moines. Benefits of belonging to the network include a private 1-800 telephone line direct to the NWS in Des Moines, the issuance of a unique spotter number that identifies you and your home location in our database, and notification reminders of the upcoming spotter training season.

Interested in becoming part of our network? To join you must:

  • Be 16 years of age or older -and-
  • Attend a spotter training class or complete the COMET Skywarn Spotter Training course

Register online (Preferred method) - Visit the Mid-Iowa Skywarn Association website at http://www.midiowaskywarn.org. Mouse over the "Get Involved" menu at the top of the page and select "Register/Update Information".

E-mail your registration information directly to the NWS Des Moines via the spotter admin e-mail account (dmx.spotteradmin@noaa.gov) Information should include your name, residence and mailing address (if different), as well as at least one phone number where you can be contacted.

Emergency Management Spotter Networks

These groups contain fire personnel, law enforcement, local amateur radio groups, and local citizens. They are managed and maintained by the county emergency manager, or other designee. These spotter groups are highly variable depending upon the county. Most reports are sent to the NWS via the 911 Center Dispatcher, or by county EOC. A spotter can belong to both the NWS and county spotter networks!

Amateur Radio Spotter Networks

There are numerous SKYWARN amateur radio spotters across central Iowa. Amateur radio spotters can reach the amateur radio net controller at WFO Des Moines providing the linking systems are operational. During severe weather, amateur radio net controllers operate from the National Weather Service in Des Moines. Net controllers receive spotter reports from amateur radio spotters from across central Iowa. Amateur radio is an excellent way to send severe weather reports in real-time to the National Weather Service!

Amateur Radio Repeaters

Amateur Radio Operators (HAMS) are a vital link in the spotter and communication network used by the NWS during severe or otherwise inclement weather and provide a reliable means of communications to NWS offices should normal communication modes fail. The following graphics depict single repeaters, linked repeater systems, or a combination thereof, which we utilize often. New repeaters continue to be installed by dedicated and hard-working hams to expand their networks. We also continue to learn of and put into use these new systems as soon as possible. For now, we will not list 2 meter and 70 cm repeaters outside of our 51 county warning area (depicted by the purple outline), unless they also serve some of our counties. If you notice errors or omissions drop us a line at dmx.spotteradmin@noaa.gov.

Keep in mind the maps depict approximate signal coverage with radio propagation characteristics, geography, equipment reliability, etc. all affecting coverage of a given repeater. Since many of these repeaters are linked please give them a second or two to connect.

Location Freq. PL
Grimes 146.610- 114.8
Williams 444.500+ 151.4
Mason City 146.760- 103.5
Scranton 444.300+ 151.4
System A image of ham radio repeaters used in Central Iowa for SKYWARN operations

Location Freq. PL
Afton 442.400+ 151.4
Baxter 442.225+ 151.4
Coralville 444.750+ 151.4
Creston 146.790+ 136.5
Greenfield 444.700+ 173.8
Grimes 443.400+ 151.4
Lenox 146.880- 136.5
Menlo 147.045+ 114.8
Osceola 147.210+ 114.8
Newton 442.300+ 151.4
System B image of ham radio repeaters used in Central Iowa for SKYWARN operations

Location Frequency PL
Bedford 147.135+

203.5

Des Moines 146.820- 203.5
Mason City 147.315+ 203.5
Pella 145.170- 203.5

Bedford:  For local use only, use a PL of 127.3

Des Moines:  For local use only, use a PL of 114.8

Mason City:  For local use only, use a tone of 103.5

 

System C image of ham radio repeaters used in Central Iowa for SKYWARN operations