National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce



NWS SKYWARN™ Storm Spotter Program

SKYWARN™ is the National Weather Service (NWS) program comprised of trained volunteer weather spotters. Storm spotters come from many walks of life, including fire fighters, law enforcement, amateur radio operators, and the general public. SKYWARN™ spotters coordinate with local emergency management officials and send reports of weather based phenomena to the NWS. SKYWARN™ spotter training is FREEopen to any member of the public, and sometimes based on location spacing, may require registration.

Storm spotters not only serve the community but also provide important information to warning forecasters who make critical warning decisions. SKYWARN™ storm spotters play an important role in providing the NWS with vital ground truth data which helps us fulfill our primary mission of saving lives and property.

See below for more information on the NWS Wilmington SKYWARN™ program.


NWS Wilmington, NC Training Classes


Click on the "Training Schedule" tab below for the latest schedule and registration information.


Online COMET MetEd Training Course

"Role of the SKYWARN® Spotter"


Additional Information


The effects of hazardous 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 help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the NWS.

In the average year, 10,000 severe thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, and more than 1,000 tornadoes occur across the United States. Northeast South Carolina and southeast North Carolina are no exception to this, with major weather events such as Hurricane Florence in September 2018, the Brunswick County EF-3 tornado in February 2021, and the "Storm of the Century" in 1993. These events threatened lives and property, and because of this, we rely heavily on our SKYWARN™ volunteers to contact our office in Wilmington, NC and report certain weather conditions. 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 the 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 hazardous 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, protect property, and enhance the national economy.

Training Sessions

Basic SKYWARN™ and Weather Safety Training

Advanced SKYWARN™ Training

  • None scheduled at this time

Forecasters from the National Weather Service (NWS) in Wilmington, NC conduct storm spotter training sessions each year to help prepare spotters for severe weather. These sessions are free and open to anyone who is interested in learning about hazardous weather and the role of a spotter. There are some eligibility requirements to be a spotter. You must be able to observe the weather, be 16 years or older, and need access to a phone to call in reports or be able to report information through the Amateur Radio Network.

Our live training sessions are approximately an hour and a half in length, and once you complete the training, you will be an official SKYWARN™ spotter. This goal of the training is to train spotters to assist local officials and the NWS with early detection of hazardous weather, and provide ground truth during severe weather events. The learning objectives of our live training sessions include:

  • Understand how the NWS Integrated Warning System works and how the spotter fits into this system
  • Identify the ingredients needed for organized thunderstorms
  • Recognize the visual and environmental clues suggestive of severe weather
  • Distinguish between legitimate clues and non-significant features associated with severe weather
  • Learn how to stay safe when storm spotting
  • Learn proper storm reporting procedures

Some of our spotters are also amateur radio operators. This dual role can be helpful, especially during a major storm like a hurricane, when phone and power lines are down and amateur radio may become the primary means of communication.

SKYWARN™ volunteers also help the NWS by reporting winter weather, flash flooding, and coastal flooding by following certain criteria. It must be stressed that we are looking for reliable and objective reports. When snowfall reports are inflated or hail sizes are exaggerated, for example, it can do more harm than good. While not a requirement, it is preferred that our SKYWARN™ volunteers would be available to receive a call from the NWS, in the event that we feel that something suspicious is happening in their area. A questionnaire form handed out at the training sessions allows one to give additional information, such as hours of availability, access to rivers/streams, type of weather equipment owned (if applicable), etc.

Training sessions are held throughout northeast South Carolina and southeast North Carolina, typically in the spring and early summer months. The latest training dates can be found in the Training Schedule tab just above. One can also find announcements on our social media channels.