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What is SKYWARN®?

Severe weather affects countless people across the United States and the world each year. To obtain critical weather information, NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, established SKYWARN® with partner organizations to 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 threaten 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.

Who Are SKYWARN® Severe Weather Spotters?

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 give communities the precious gift of time--seconds and minutes that can help save lives.

SKYWARN® spotters in northeastern Wyoming and western South Dakota consist of emergency response officials such as law enforcement officers and fire fighters who have direct communication with the Rapid City NWS office. Volunteers, including amateur radio operators and trained citizens, also provide essential information that assists the NWS in fulfilling its mission to protect lives and property.

Spotter Training Program

NWS meteorologists provide training to organizations and individuals participating in SKYWARN® to ensure they can identify and monitor severe storms safely. Both in-person and online classes are offered in the spring.

In-person Classes

In-person classes open to the public will be held on the following dates and times (all classes are shown in Mountain Daylight Time). Click on the title for additional details.

Online Training

The Rapid City NWS offices offer several spotter training classes by webinar. The training for 2022 has been completed; look for new dates in early 2023.

The Cooperative Operational Meteorology Education and Training (COMET) offers an online Skywarn® Spotter Training course in two sections: "Role of the Skywarn® Spotter" and "Skywarn® Spotter Convective Basics". The course is designed for people interested in becoming storm spotters. While previously-trained Skywarn® spotters are not required to take it, it does provides additional background material not covered in the local classes. The course is free and each section takes one to two hours to complete. People interested in becoming spotters for the NWS can notify our office after completing the training.

Resources

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If you have questions or want additional information, contact the Rapid City NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist.

Banner supercell base image courtesy Pat Gerdes.