National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Storm Spotter Tips and Information


The Houston/Galveston National Weather Service has all kinds of computerized products and the Doppler Radar to use when severe weather is threatening the area. Even though all this high-tech equipment is useful, nothing can replace an observer who witnesses severe weather first-hand. We rely on trained spotters and public reports to verify what we see on the radar and to confirm warnings that we issue.

In 1995, roughly 90% of the severe weather events were warned on prior to their occurrence! The staff will continue to issue warnings with as much lead time as possible, and hopefully we can even improve from last years numbers. We need the public's help though.

Your reports help us (and you) out in many ways. We can check our radar algorithms to make sure what is really happening is what the radar really "sees". Every warning we issue is either verified by a severe event, or is not verified at all either because no one reported it, the event took place in an unpopulated area, or it shouldn't have been issued in the first place. All of these statistics are reported to National Weather Service Headquarters. Another thing to keep in the back of your mind--if, for example, your roof sustained hail damage on a particular day and no one in your area reported it to the authorities, there is a good possibility that insurance companies might give you a hard time concerning replacement. Many times, insurance companies call our office to verify that a severe weather event happened on a certain day. If we have no reports, there is not much we can say but "no!".

So the question is--How can you the public help us out? You should report a severe weather event to us as soon as possible. Although we are here 24 hours a day, we answer public calls Monday through Friday from 830 AM-430 PM. Our public phone number is (281) 337-5074. You should also report the event to your local county sheriff's office, who can reach us around the clock.

Another important issue is what to report and what not report. Some events can be considered significant to some, but strictly "by the book", are not considered severe. Calls, and reports of an event not considered severe are a waste of your time as well as ours'. Listed below are events to report and not to report.

This is a severe event (REPORT IT!)
1. Tornado on the ground.
2. A waterspout that moves onshore.
3. Measured wind gusts of 58 mph or more.
4. Large structures (trees, homes, power lines, permanent signs) sustaining wind damage. Be specific.
5. Quarter size (1") or greater hail.
6. Flooding/flash flooding.
This is not a severe event (PLEASE DO NOT REPORT!)
1. "Strong winds" or
2. "tornado-like winds".
3. Lots of lightning or any lightning related event (including a fire).
4. "Very heavy rain".
5. Pea-sized hail.
6. "Power is out at my house".
7. "The sky is very dark".