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About Spotters

 

Real-time reports are critical in issuing warnings and saving lives. That’s an indisputable fact. Spotters provide real-time ground-truth of local conditions, such as hail size, wind speed, tornado development, and local damage, to help warn the public. Even as new technology allows the National Weather Service to issue warnings with greater lead time, spotters will always serve as a critical link between radar indications of severe weather and what’s happening on the ground.

 

Who are spotters?

 

Virtually every community has some form of spotter network. Often, local fire and police personnel are trained to observe and report severe weather, partly due to their extensive radio communication and 24-hour operations. Citizens may also be an active part of the spotter network, some with an avid interest in the weather and many without. Some spotters are amateur radio operators. All share a sense of responsibility to their neighbors.

 

What is Skywarn?

 

SKYWARN is a program sponsored by the National Weather Service. The program is made up of thousands of volunteers who attend regular training and then scan the skies of their communities identifying and reporting critical storm information. These volunteers, sometimes organized under the SKYWARN banner in the U.S., are typically trained by NWS forecasters to be the eyes and ears of both the warning forecasters and the local public safety networks.

Reference Information

Current Conditions/Forecast

 

Additional Resources

 

 

Spotter Training Information

 

Spotter Training Classes

(Dates are Below. )

Frequently Asked Questions about Spotter Training Sessions

  1. Do I need to preregister for these sessions? Most of the time, no. All you need to do is arrive at the proper time and location. However, in rare instances, a county might request registration with their officials. Check the details of the session to see if preregistration is required.
     

  2. About how long do the sessions last? Approximately 2 hours.
     

  3. Do I have to live / be a spotter in the county that I take the training session? No. The training sessions are identical. 
     

  4. Is there a fee to attend? There is no fee to attend.

    Click on any talk below for additional information. Not all sessions may appear in the list. Try clicking on the "Look for More" link to see if more are scheduled.

Below is a listing of upcoming severe weather spotter training sessions.

Submit a Report

 

We appreciate reports of all types of severe weather and winter weather reports. It is important to include a specific location and time of occurrence for the event you're reporting. Reports can be made via form, email, and social media. Please click the link below to learn more information.


Submit a Report

Amateur Radio

 

Amateur Radio Operators (HAMS) have been a partner with the NWS for decades. Central Indiana Skywarn provides vital information to NWS Indy, relaying critical real-time severe weather reports.  Below is an example map of frequencies used by Central Indiana Skywarn. Please visit their site for the latest version and for more information about the group.

Map of HAM Radio Frequencies

 

Frequently Asked Questions about Storm Spotting

  1. Who are storm spotters?
  2. Why become a storm spotter?
  3. What is Skywarn?
  4. Do spotters “chase” storms?
  5. Do spotters need special tools or equipment?
  6. How do I become a community storm spotter?
  7. How do I become a spotter in the Indianapolis service area?
  8. Is there an age requirement for attending a class or becoming a spotter?
  9. What training is required?
  10. When will a class be offered in my community?
  11. Can I attend a class in another area?
  12. How often should I retrain?
  13. Can I take spotter training online instead of attending a class?
  14. I don't want to be a spotter.  Can I attend a class anyway?
  15. Can I schedule a spotter training class for my group?
  16. What do spotters report?

 Who are Storm Spotters?
Virtually every community has some form of spotter network. Often, local fire and police personnel are trained to observe and report severe weather, partly due to their extensive radio communication and 24-hour operations. Citizens may also be an active part of the spotter network, some with an avid interest in the weather and many without.  Some spotters are amateur radio operators.  All share a sense of responsibility to their neighbors.

Why become a storm spotter?

Real-time reports are critical in issuing warnings and saving lives. That’s an indisputable fact. Spotters provide this real-time ground-truth of local conditions - such as hail size, wind speed, storm structure, tornado development, and local damage - to help warn the public. Even as new technology allows the National Weather Service (NWS) to issue warnings with more lead time, spotters will always serve as a key link between radar indications of severe weather and what’s happening on the ground.

 

What is Skywarn?
SKYWARN is a program sponsored by the National Weather Service. The program is made up of thousands of volunteers who attend regular training and then scan the skies of their communities identifying and reporting critical storm information. These volunteers, sometimes organized under the SKYWARN banner in the U.S., are typically trained by NWS forecasters to be the eyes and ears of both the warning forecasters and the local public safety networks.

Do spotters “chase” storms?
Generally, no. Some may be mobile, such as law enforcement officers; and others may track storms, depending on how the local network is structured.  However, most spotters simply report the weather that occurs where they are. 

 

Do spotters need special tools or equipment? 
Maybe – or maybe not. All spotters need a reliable and effective means of communication with their network. Some may invest in a rain gage or perhaps an anemometer for measuring wind speed.

 How do I become a community storm spotter?

Although the NWS often provides training, spotter groups in most areas are organized by emergency management officials or the police or fire department. If you are interested in becoming a spotter, check with these agencies to find out who serves as spotters in your area.

 How do I become a spotter in central Indiana? 

Please attend a spotter training class.

 Is there an age requirement for attending a class or becoming a spotter?

Short answer: not really.  People of all ages attend spotter training classes.  Those ages 10 and up are likely to get the most from the class. Youth who are interested in registering as spotters with the NWS Indianapolis are registered along with an adult in the same household. 

What training is required?
A typical Skywarn training class conducted by the NWS lasts about 2 hours. Classes include information on identifying storm features, effective positioning strategy, safety, and severe weather communication. The National Weather Service recommends that spotters train every 2 years to remain current.

When will a class be offered in my community?
In central Indiana, spotter training classes are conducted from late February through early April.  Scheduling of spotter training classes begins around the New Year.  A list of classes currently scheduled can be found in the training tab of this webpage.

Can I attend a class in another area?
Short answer: Yes, you can.  However, keep in mind that attending a class in your own county will give you the most insight into the Skywarn activities in your home community.  It is also generally good practice to train with the people you will be working with.  However, if you are unable to attend your local class, you can certainly attend a class in another area.

How often should I retrain?
The NWS recommends that spotters retrain every 2 years.  

Can I take spotter training online instead of attending a class?
At this time the NWS Indianapolis only accepts new spotter registrations and updates from people who attend a class in person or virtually.  The reason...relaying accurate information effectively is critical during severe weather.  Therefore, we feel that it is important to attend spotter training in person or virtually to optimize this process.  

I don't want to be a spotter.  Can I attend a class anyway?
Sure!  Many people attend spotter training classes because they simply have an interest in weather and want to learn more about storms.  Some even attend because they are afraid of storms and hope that learning more will ease their fear.  Scout troops, high school science classes, and many others also often attend spotter training.

Can I schedule a spotter training class for my group? 
Because classes must be complete before severe weather season begins, we must limit the number of classes to one or two per county.  This means that we usually are not able to schedule classes for individual groups.  Spotter training classes are coordinated through the county emergency manager and should include all groups and general public involved in the local storm spotting program.  Check with your local emergency management officials if you are interested in hosting a class for your county. 

 What do spotters report?
Spotters report all kinds of hazardous weather including hail, tornadoes, and storm-related damage.  

(Thanks to WFO Office Quad Cities for the FAQ)