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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org - 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.)
Wall Clouds & Funnel Clouds
|Half Dollar||1 1/4|
|Ping Pong Ball||1 1/2|
|Golf Ball||1 3/4|
|Tennis Ball||2 1/2|
|<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|
Flash Flooding & Heavy Rain
Snow & Ice
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.
Outlooks, Watches & Warnings
Severe Weather Outlooks:
|Day 1 Outlook||Day 2 Outlook||Day 3 Outlook||Days 4-8 Outlooks|
Severe Weather Discussion, Watches, and Environmental Data:
|Mesoscale Discussions||Active Watches||Outlook, Watches & Radar||Mesoanalysis Data|
Central Iowa Weather and Storm Reports:
|Current Radar & Warnings||Weather Story||Today's Storm Reports||Yesterday's Storm Reports|
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.
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:
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 (email@example.com) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.