National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Skywarn FAQ


  • What is Skywarn?

    The Skywarn spotter program is a nationwide network of volunteers trained by the National Weather Service (NWS) to report significant weather. Anyone is welcome to participate.


  • Why Have Skywarn?

    The NWS Forecast Office in Charleston, West Virginia is responsible for issuing warnings for most of West Virginia, Southeast Ohio, Northeast Kentucky and parts of Southwest Virginia. It is very difficult to keep tabs on what is going on in this large area during a severe weather event. Skywarn volunteers become our eyes and ears during these hectic times, helping to provide better weather watch and warning services to the public.


  • When will Skywarn Function?

    Information is relayed to the NWS during tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, snow storms, flooding, and any other weather event that involves the use of volunteer storm spotters. If you observe rough weather, we want to know about it!


  • Who will activate Skywarn?

    The Weather Office and/or emergency management authorities may activate the Skywarn net usually whenever there is a severe weather threat or the forecast office issues a severe thunderstorm watch, tornado watch, or flood watch. In this case, information will be relayed through our amateur radio repeater. Also, our Hazardous Weather Outlook product will give information on what type of weather is possible, and if Skywarn activation may be needed.


  • Where will Skywarn observations be taken?

    Skywarn reports are relayed from wherever you are- on the road, in your office, or at your home- you don't have to travel to any particular location! It is important, however, to not jeopardize your own safety while participating in Skywarn. Give your report when you are in a safe location away from the hazardous weather.


  • How are Skywarn and HAM radio operators related?

    HAM radio operators have a special place in the Charleston Skywarn system. Our Charleston weather office has HAM radio equipment on site. A Skywarn Net run by the volunteer amateur radio net control operators allow for reports from the field to be directly heard at the Weather Service.


  • How do I join Skywarn?

    All that is required is your appearance at one of our training sessions, which are held in various locations around our area of responsibility. We will record your location and contact information, and we will provide you with information on what and when to report. You will even learn about storm structure and evolution...really cool stuff! Check this page to see when and where our next training sessions will be held.

  • Does it cost anything to join Skywarn?

    Absolutely not! All training that we provide is for the benefit of you and your community. We even have a toll-free number that is specifically for reports from our Skywarn spotters. All we ask for is your time and your effort!


  • Sounds great! What if I have more questions?

    If you would like more information on the Charleston Skywarn program, use the contact information on this page.