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NWS San Angelo Skywarn Program
About Skywarn Training Schedule Become a Spotter Submit Report Training Resources
 

What is Skywarn?

   The effects of severe 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 National Weather Service. Although Skywarn® spotters provide essential information for all types of weather hazards, the main responsibility of a Skywarn® spotter is to identify and describe severe local storms. In the average year, 10,000 severe thunderstorms, 5,000 floods and more than 1,000 tornadoes occur across the United States. These events threatened lives and property. 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 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 severe 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 and property.

 

How Skywarn Works in the WFO San Angelo County Warning Area

Preliminary 2021 SKYWARN Training Schedule

   NWS San Angelo has many highly trained SKYWARN storm spotters who volunteer their time and radio communication skills to provide timely and accurate information about the storms seen on radar. These highly dedicated individuals help save lives. No matter how advanced radar technology becomes, the National Weather Service will always be highly dependent on trained volunteer SKYWARN spotters.

   Many people ask how they can become a member of Skywarn. In most cases, Skywarn isn't really something you become a member of. Skywarn is a concept based on having citizen volunteers help their community and the NWS by observing and reporting hazardous weather occurring in their area. Anyone can be a storm spotter and submit reports directly to the NWS. If you are interested in becoming a member of an official local Skywarn storm spotter network, you'll probably want to contact your city or county emergency management office for information. Many communities have organized networks of storm spotters, often made up of amateur radio operators, fire departments, law enforcement or other volunteers. These local networks may have very specific training and membership requirements, so check with your local officials to see how you might be able to get involved.

   If you would like to become a SKYWARN spotter, the first step is to attend a SKYWARN training session administered by the National Weather Service. These training sessions are free and no registration is required. The classes are held from February to mid-April. Check the latest SKYWARN training schedule. If you have any questions about these classes, you can e-mail hector.guerrero@noaa.gov, Warning and Coordination Meteorologist at NWS San Angelo. You can also contact us by phone at (325) 944-9445.

Many SKYWARN spotters are volunteer firemen and law enforcement officers who have reliable radio contact with county law enforcement dispatchers. Other SKYWARN spotters simply relay storm reports to law enforcement or National Weather Service via their home telephone.  Other groups of SKYWARN spotters communicate with an Amateur Radio SKYWARN net controller. This is often accomplished through amateur radio, and sometimes through General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) frequencies operated by Radio Emergency Communications Teams (REACT). Amateur radio and GMRS operators are licensed with the FCC. Most local amateur radio clubs administer license classes and examinations, as well as communications and spotter logistics training.

   Getting Started in Amateur Radio (Courtesy of the American Radio Relay League) Online Amateur Radio Practice Exams

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I become a member of Skywarn?
Skywarn is not really something to be a member of. It’s the concept of using volunteer storm spotters to provide critical information to local communities and to the NWS, and that’s what has driven the storm spotter program since it began decades ago. Your community may have an organized storm spotter network that uses the name Skywarn, and you should contact your local emergency manager to find out what formal spotter networks are in place near you and how you might be able to get involved.

What is my spotter ID number? Do I get an ID card?
NWS San Angelo does not issue ID cards or spotter ID numbers.

Do I need an amateur radio license to be a storm spotter?
It depends on your community and how involved you want to be. You don’t have to be an amateur radio operator to make a severe weather report, but many spotter networks are made up of dedicated amateur radio operators who use radio to coordinate their local network and to relay reports to the NWS. If you’re interested in learning more about amateur radio, visit this site.

How do I report severe weather?
In many communities, spotters are expected to report directly to their local emergency management office, fire department or law enforcement office. Those reports are important for local officials who need to make decisions regarding local warning systems or deal with storm damage or flooding. Local officials will usually relay your report to the NWS in San Angelo.

If you are not affiliated with a local spotter group or are unable to contact your local officials, you can submit a storm report directly to our office using the methods described here.