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 serve as the "eyes of the NWS" and 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. While the main role of a storm spotter is to be their community's first line of defense against dangerous storms, they also provide important information to NWS warning forecasters who make critical warning decisions. Storm spotters play a critical role because they can see things that radar and other technological tools cannot, and this ground truth is critical in helping the NWS perform our primary mission, to save lives and property.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I become a member of SKYWARN?

SKYWARN is not really something to be a member of. It’s the concept of using volunteer storm spotters to provide critical information to local communities and to the NWS, and that’s what has driven the storm spotter program since it began decades ago. It's a great idea to contact your local emergency manager to find out what formal spotter networks are in place near you and how you might be able to get involved. We are also happy to provide help and guidance.

What is my spotter ID number? Do I get an ID card?

NWS Columbia does not issue ID cards or spotter ID numbers. After you complete training, you can register with us. You'll then be added to our roster of qualified SKYWARN Spotters.

Do I need an amateur radio license to be a storm spotter?

You don’t have to be an amateur radio operator to make a severe weather report, but many spotter networks are made up of dedicated amateur radio operators who use radio to coordinate their local network and to relay reports to the NWS. If you’re interested in learning more about amateur radio, visit this site. The only requirement for becoming a spotter is a desire to complete training, and to be a volunteer that can make a life-saving difference.

Do I need to be a storm chaser to be involved in SKYWARN?

Absolutely not! We do not ask our SKYWARN Spotters to chase tornadoes or severe weather. The idea behind the program is to report severe weather from where you are...whether at home, school, work or play. For safety reasons we do not train or ask our spotters to chase any severe weather, and to send reports only when it is safe to do so.

How to Become a NWS SKYWARN Storm Spotter


1) Attend one of our "Basic Spotter" training classes. There are no fees and no registration is required…just show up and enjoy the training.
2) If you cannot attend one of our in-person training sessions or want to refresh your knowledge, try the Online Storm Spotter Course. You will need to register on the COMET website to access the training. Be sure to follow the instructions in the Course Description section for how to become an official Storm Spotter for the NWS in Columbia, SC.

Hosting a Storm Spotter Training Seminar


To request and host a Severe Weather Spotter Training seminar, fill out our Outreach Request form.

Contact Warning Coordination Meteorologist John Quagliariello,
Phone: 803-822-8135, extension 223


Severe Weather Reports Needed

  • Tornadoes, waterspouts, funnel clouds, rotating wall clouds
  • Hail (any size)
  • Estimated or measured wind speeds of 50 mph or greater
  • Flooding resulting in closed or impassable roads, property damage
  • Rainfall amounts greater than 1 inches per hour
  • Trees downed by wind (including large limbs)
  • Downed power lines or other structural damage caused by wind

When reporting any of these events, use the T E L method…what TIME did the event occur? What EVENT occurred? And what was the LOCATION of the event?

You can provide a storm report to our office directly using our online Submit A Storm Report Form

Download our SKYWARN Spotter Report Form

Statewide and Regional Amateur Radio Organizations

Local Amateur Radio Organizations

NWS Columbia's County Warning Area (CWA) & Amateur Radio Network


NWS Columbia utilizes the 2-Meter amateur radio network across Central SC and the CSRA to obtain severe weather reports. When a significant severe weather outbreak is anticipated, NWS meteorologists will ask for Net Control Stations to SKYWARN radio nets in areas threatened by severe weather. We may also call Amateur Radio Operators into our office to collect reports from the area nets, or establish one as well. The Call Sign for the NWS Columbia Office during an organized radio net is WX4CAE. When calling net control, simply call Columbia SKYWARN. It is not the intent of the net to provide the latest conditions and forecasts. The purpose of the net is to receive reports, not give them out. During an active weather net, the operator may monitor the following repeaters:

  • 147.210 MHz - Little Mountain Repeater
  • 145.490 MHz - Trenton Repeater
  • 147.105 MHz - Bishopville Repeater
  • 147.015 MHz - Sumter Repeater
  • 145.450 MHz - Savannah River Site (CSRA Backup)


























Download our current NET CONTROL SCRIPTS

Download our SKYWARN Spotter Report Form

Download our Spotter Quick Reference Sheet


Additional Information and Resources

Schedule of Upcoming SKYWARN Spotter Classes
SKYWARN Weather Spotter's Field Guide
Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Lightning...Nature's Most Violent Storms
Sky Watcher Cloud Poster
National SKYWARN Website
SKYWARN Recognition Day (Every 1st Saturday in December!)
NWS Columbia References (pdf)
NWS Booklets and Brochures