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Severe Weather Spotter Training


Storm Spotter Resources

Severe Weather Reporting

Questions about Spotter Training?



EF-2 tornado near Homer, IL on 09/09/2016. Photo by Jeff Frame                                                                               
Photo by Jeff Frame                                                                                                     Drone Photo by Jake Wolf
EF-2 Tornado near Homer, IL  09/09/16                                                                         EF-2 Tornado Damage near Homer, IL

Severe Storm Spotter Training


Severe storm spotters are a VITAL part of the warning process and play a critical role in getting timely warnings and information out to the public!

The NWS in Lincoln, IL provides on-site spotter training classes annually in various locations across central and southeast Illinois between late February and early April. The spotter training class is designed for people new to severe storm spotting, as well as those that need refresher training. The training is comprised of all of the information that spotters need to be effective and stay safe. NWS Lincoln recommends that spotters take refresher classes at least every 2-3 years.





 Spotter Resources

1) Online Spotter Training Classes (through UCAR MetEd)

There is NO COST to take the two classes which make up this training: "Role of the SKYWARN Spotter" and "SKYWARN Spotter Convective Basics".

All you need is a login account & password on the MetEd web page.

 Click the image to the left to get started!

Important Note: You are still HIGHLY encouraged to attend a spotter training class in or near your area to learn about local effects and local reporting procedures. These online classes are intended as either a brief introduction to severe storm spotting OR as a refresher for spotters who have attended a class in the last few years.


2) NWS Lincoln YouTube videos:


We have placed our spotter training on our YouTube page. You can either view all the videos at once (approximate run time 36 minutes), or broken down by topic. However, in order to become a certified storm spotter, you either need to attend a class in person, or take the online class above.

Topic Length
Introduction 2:12
Thunderstorm Development 4:15
Characteristics of Severe Storms 2:00
Thunderstorm Types 3:16
Non-Supercell Tornadoes and Other Rotations 3:18
Squall Lines 3:11
Supercells 6:09
Challenges While Spotting 2:26
Spotter Safety: Escape Routes 2:15
Spotter Safety: Lightning, Flooding and Tornadoes 3:38
Submitting Severe Weather Reports 3:34



3) Additional Resources for Storm Spotters

Note: Utilizing these items does NOT make you a trained spotter. These are intended as resource material only. If you have an interest in storm spotting please attend a spotter class in your area.

  Spotter training guide                     2012 spotter training presentation 

Spotter's Field Guide (1.9 MB PDF)            2015 NWS Lincoln Spotter Training


       NOAA / NASA Sky Watcher Cloud Chart (High Res PDF download)                                                                           

      Planning Resources for Spotters - NWS Lincoln Web Products (1.8 MB PDF) 


 From the Storm Prediction Center:

SPC online tornado FAQ            Shelf cloud in Hampshire, 7/1/2008. Photo by Brittney Misialek 
                                                                                                                                             Photo by Brittney Misialek

Frequently Asked Questions                         Facts About Derechos
About Tornadoes




Severe Weather Reporting

I) How to Make a Report

If you observe severe weather in central or southeast Illinois, please make a report as safely & as soon as possible to one of the following locations:

  • The county sheriff's office or local police department

II) What to report 

1.       Tornadoes

2.       Funnel Clouds, Rotating Wall Clouds or any other rotations

3.       Flooding / Heavy Rain

a.      Rapidly rising creeks, streams or rivers.

b.      High water on city streets or rural roads, 6” or more in depth AND any road closures, especially in areas that do not normally flood.

c.       Heavy rainfall that is accumulating at rates of 1 inch per hour

4.       High Wind – around 60 mph and greater or ANY WIND DAMAGE
(Note: Report high wind even if it is not associated with a thunderstorm)


a.       40 to 55 mph – small tree branches broken off

b.      55 to 70 mph – large tree branches broken off, shallow rooted trees 
blown over, damage to chimneys, guttering, roofing and sheds.

c.       Greater than 70 mph – heavy damage to structures such as roofing torn off, power poles snapped, trailers overturned, large trees blown over. 

     5.  Large Hail (1.00" or greater in diameter)


Hail Size
Hail Size
Golf Ball
One Half Inch
Tennis Ball
Large Apple
Ping-Pong Ball

      6. Lightning Damage

              a.   Injuries or fatalities due to a lightning strike

              b.   Property damage due to a lightning strike




If you have any questions about spotter training classes in central or southeast Illinois, contact Warning Coordination Meteorologist Chris Miller at: