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What is SKYWARN?
SKYWARN frequencies that our counties use during
severe weather events.
More on amateur radio SKYWARN NET for Allegheny
An effective SKYWARN net usually follows some form of guide or outline. This is
especially helpful in making it through the rougher times that occasionally occur. Usually it
is in these tough times that your communications to the NWS have the utmost value.
Remember, SKYWARN is NOT a club. By putting aside any differences that do not
support the goals of SKYWARN, you'll find your SKYWARN net to be at its most
A great amount of the work is done by the amateur radio community in fulfilling the goals of
SKYWARN. The NWS appreciates your assistance. The Pittsburgh National Weather
Service office has over 2000 trained spotters in our 36 county warning area that covers four
states. We rely on you in assisting in goals number 2, 3 and 4.
THE GOALS OF AMATEUR RADIO SKYWARN
1) TO HAVE A NETWORK OF SPOTTERS IN PLACE TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER
2) TO ACTIVATE THIS NETWORK AS NEEDED
3) TO COORDINATE REPORTS FROM THE SPOTTERS IN A PROFESSIONAL MANNER
4) TO RELAY THESE REPORTS TO THE NWS IN A TIMELY MANNER
ACTIVATING THE NETWORK
Methods of initial awareness of severe weather and the need to activate the network:
Receive a call from the NWS requesting reports
NOAA Weather Radio, local TV or radio, if your county is under a Severe Thunderstorm/Flash
Flood/or Tornado Warning, there is no doubt that the NWS needs your reports.
Tune to your local repeater, where SKYWARN nets are held. Others may have begun to
activate the net.
If you are hearing reports on the repeater that meet the criteria set by the NWS.
Request by EMA or other county official
Please note: The need for activation occurs when only one of these criteria are met.
CRITERIA FOR REPORTING
WIND GUSTS (ESTIMATED OR MEASURED 45 MPH OR MORE)
WIND DAMAGE (TO LIMBS, TREES, ROOFS, ETC.)
HAIL (WITH DIAMETER OF LARGEST STONES)
FLOODING (BASEMENTS, EXTENSIVE STREET FLOODING, SMALL STREAMS)
HEAVY RAIN (0.75 INCHES OR GREATER IN 1 HOUR OR LESS OR 3 INCHES IN ANY TIME FRAME LESS THAN 24
CONTINUOUS LIGHTNING FIRE/DAMAGE CAUSED BY LIGHTNING
ANY DEATH OR INJURY DUE TO ANY OF THE ABOVE
Remember to always give the three most important parts of a report
TIME - TIME OF OCCURRENCE
EVENT - HAIL, TORNADO, FUNNEL CLOUD, ETC.
LOCATION - COUNTY AND DIRECTION/DISTANCE FROM NEAREST TOWN
Often severe storms strike quickly and are isolated in our area. There will be times when
there is no radio operator at the NWS to make direct contacts to you. This is when your
main link to the NWS is via the 800 Severe Weather Hotline. One person, often the Net
Control Station, should be delegated to using the HOTLINE to relay severe weather reports.
This will avoid duplication and keep the 800 lines free. Whenever calling the Severe Weather
Hotline identify yourself as a SKYWARN member in Allegheny County.
The radio operator at the NWS can provide information on the current watch/warning
status for your county and a brief radar synopsis. It is up to the net control operator to
determine what level of net activation is required given certain circumstances. The degree
needed varies, but could be effectively arranged in a four-tier system.
Net activation to STANDBY
When used: When a Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been issued, but no weather activity is
occurring in the area. Note the expiration time of the watch.
A net control station will then be established and take and log check-ins. Now is the best
time to establish where potential observers are located for the upcoming event, not when the
severe weather is hitting. The net control station will also relay watch information
frequently. Normal use of the repeater will continue, however, please leave a pause between
transmissions should net control need to break in to take the net to a higher level.
As the storms approach your area, the net may need to be fully activated. There are three
levels of full activation.
Net Activation to CONDITION GREEN
When used: Used during ALL Tornado Watches and during Severe Thunderstorm Watches when
active weather is occurring.
Nets for Flood/Flash Flood Watches are normally not required. There may be exceptions when
the NWS would request additional spotter reports, ex. remnants of a tropical storm
moving through the area.
The first priority, during condition green, would be
taking and relaying weather reports to the NWS. Second would be check-ins. The Net
Control Station takes control of frequency and gives frequent updates on net status and
weather watches. Prepare for further upgrade as storms approach or if severe weather reports
begin coming in.
Net Activation to CONDITION YELLOW
When used: If a SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING and/or FLASH FLOOD WARNING has been issued
for your county.
Priority must be given to collecting and relaying weather reports, No check-ins or checkouts
at this time. Net Contol will announce warning information frequently. Only reports meeting
the criteria mentioned earlier should be requested. "It's not raining here"
reports are not needed, unless requested.
Net Activation to CONDITION RED
When used: If a TORNADO WARNING has been issued for your county.
Net Control Station takes total control of frequency. Net Control requests tornado, funnel
cloud and wall cloud reports. If there are no tornadic reports, Net Contol requests reports
meeting the above criteria. Stations without one of the above reports should maintain radio
silence. Net control will relay Tornado Warning information frequently.
Condition RED events are rare. However, real emergency
organization in these instances is what will make the NWS, trained spotters and all
licensed amateurs involved with ARES fulfill their missions and shine.
Often, if one waits until a warning is issued, it is too late to organize spotters, collect
reports and relay them to the NWS in a timely manner. Spotters are also requested to
check-in/check-out in Stand-by and Condition Green. This will help net control know where
available spotters are before the storm moves through the county.
More details concerning the changes will be available during the Allegheny County Skywarn
Nets on the first and third Wednesdays at 8:30 PM on the 147.09 repeater through the winter
and spring. I will keep you up-to-date with the pluses and minuses of the new operations.
Granted, what works well for one county might not for another. Many counties conduct two-meter
radio Skywarn nets. If a County EC/AEC would like to share information in future newsletters
on how they conduct their nets, let me know.
If you have any questions about the NWS SKYWARN program, don't hesitate to contact
Administrative: (412) 262-1591
Weather recording: (412) 262-2170
River information: (412) 262-5290
National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office Pittsburgh
192 Shafer Road
Moon Township, PA 15108
Fred McMullen, Warning Coordination Meteorologist/SKYWARN Director