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Severe Weather Spotter Training


Storm Spotter Resources

Severe Weather Reporting

Questions about Spotter Training?



EF-3 tornado near Washburn, IL 02/28/2017. Photo by Cameron Nixon                                                                               
Photo by Cameron Nixon                                                                                               Photo by Nate Loeb
EF-3 Tornado near Washburn, IL  2/28/17                                                                     EF-1 Tornado near Stark County, IL  2/28/17


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.

Topics covered in the spotter training class include:

  • Thunderstorm development and features
  • Tornadoes and other rotations
  • Non-tornadic severe weather (Damaging wind, hail, and flooding)
  • Web resources for Spotters
  • Spotter Safety
  • Spotter reports - Who to report to and What to report

Calendar for 2018 Spotter Training classes in Central / Southeast IL

  • Classes are typically 2 to 2.5 hours long
  • There is NO CHARGE to attend a spotter training class
  • Anyone is welcome to attend - HOWEVER you must be at least 18 years old to be an official spotter
  • Feel free to attend ANY class listed below - you don't need to be a resident of the listed location
  • Unless it is otherwise noted, NO RSVP is necessary - just come to the class you're interested in

Click on the "MONTH" tab or the "AGENDA" tab for upcoming training sessions.

NOTE: Click/Select the calendar entry for DETAILS about the exact location & times of the spotter training sessions.

Surrounding NWS Office Spotter Schedules:


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



 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                       

Spotter's Field Guide (1.9 MB PDF)           


       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) Sign-up to be a SKYWARN spotter 

  • You must be at least 18 years of age
  • We will cross-check your name on the sign-in sheet for the spotter class you attended. If it is NOT there you will NOT be entered into our database!

To register with NWS Lincoln, IL as a SKYWARN Spotter
click the SKYWARN logo below:


II) 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 local / county Emergency Management Agency (EMA) or Emergency Services & Disaster Agency (ESDA)
  • The National Weather Service in Lincoln 


       Facebook   Put reports on our Facebook page:

       Twitter   Send us a tweet:   @NWSLincolnIL

       Email   Send us an email:

       Mobile App   Send reports from your location via a smartphone app:   MPing 

  • The county sheriff's office or local police department

III) 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: