National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

SKYWARN Spotter Program

 
  Introduction

Pleasant weather usually dominates southern Nevada, southeast California, and northwest Arizona.  But even we are susceptible to severe weather. Thunderstorms can produce flash flooding, damaging winds, hail, and even tornadoes. Winter storms can bring high winds as well as heavy snow to the mountains.

To effectively warn for the protection of life and property, the National Weather Service must have a thorough handle on current weather conditions throughout this region.   Unfortunately, long distances separate National Weather Service offices. Although weather satellites and Doppler weather radar use the latest technology to provide a wealth of information to forecasters, no tool has yet been developed that can replace a human observation of the weather.

You can help!  By alerting us to significant weather events, you become the "eyes and ears" of the National Weather Service in your area and help us determine when and where we need to issue warnings.  Your participation in the SKYWARNTM spotter program is entirely voluntary.  You are under no obligation and cannot be compensated.  However, your vigilance is valuable and greatly appreciated! It helps others and could save lives. 

We are authorized to officially certify only persons residing in our County Warning Area (Clark, Nye, Esmeralda, and Lincoln Counties in Nevada; Inyo and San Bernardino Counties in California; Mohave County in Arizona). If you are outside of our local forecast area and are interested in becoming a weather spotter, please contact the local Skywarn representative for your location. Local Contact

 

 
  Role of the Weather Spotter

A weather spotter is a person who observes significant weather and relays the information to the National Weather Service (NWS) or appropriate local authority, based on the severity and immediate threat of the event observed.

Spotters provide an invaluable service to their communities and to the National Weather Service. The information they provide helps their community by assisting local public safety officials in making critical decisions aimed at protecting lives and property. During life-threatening weather events such as tornadoes and flash flooding, these real-time reports from weather spotters are used to help warn others in their community, as well as those neighboring communities which may be in harm's way.

Spotter reports also help National Weather Service forecasters in the critical decision-making process of determining what storms pose a risk to lives and property. The National Weather Service uses these critical reports from storm spotters in combination with radar, satellite, and automated surface observations when issuing Severe Thunderstorm, Tornado, Flash Flood, Winter Storm, and other types of warnings. Your report becomes part of the warning decision-making process, and is combined with radar data and other information and used by NWS forecasters to decide whether or not to:

  • Issue a new warning
  • Cancel an existing warning
  • Continue a warning
  • Issue a warning for the next county
  • Change the warning type (from a severe thunderstorm to a tornado, for example)

In addition to being used in the warning decision-making process by National Weather Service forecasters, spotter reports also provide valuable information to people in the path of a potentially deadly storm. Ground truth reports from spotters help to give credibility to the warnings issued by the National Weather Service to those people who are in the path of a potentially damaging or life-threatening storm. This ground-truth information helps to motivate people in harm's way to take action to protect themselves and their property.

At times, the National Weather Service may call a spotter after a storm has passed, in order to inquire what conditions were like as the storm moved through. This information helps NWS forecasters train for the next big event. Of course, spotters are always encouraged to take the initiative and call the NWS office with their information. 
 

 
  2019 Skywarn Spotter Class Schedule

 

  • There are no more scheduled spotter classes for 2019. Check back Spring 2020 for additional opportunities to become an official SKYWARN spotter for NWS Las Vegas! 

Most public training classes will be held between April and June and new classes will be added to the schedule when they are finalized. If you are interested in having a talk for a specific group please contact Andy Gorelow or Chelsea Kryston.

  • The NWS in conjunction with UCAR has developed two training modules that will help current and future NWS Storm Spotters. The goal of the first module called Role of the Skywarn Spotter is to provide baseline training for all current and future spotters through multiple scenarios covering the procedures for spotting (including storm report criteria), safety considerations for all hazards, and an overview of the national program and its history. 

 

  • The goal of the second training module called Skywarn Spotter Convective Basics will guide users to a basic understanding of convective storms. Through three different scenarios, you will cover reporting and proper communication of local storm reports to the National Weather Service (NWS), personal safety during these events, and field identification of convective storm hazards. After completing the scenarios, you will be given the opportunity to practice identifying storm features from a spectrum of photos. 

 

  • For current spotters, these modules will help refresh your training and answer questions you may have. For prospective spotters, this training will help you understand what the role of the weather spotter is, and help you understand the basics of severe weather. Completion of these modules will not make you a trained weather spotter for the NWS but will help you when you take the training with your local NWS office. You will have register for each of these courses through the website and there is no cost. 


For inquiries regarding the NWS Las Vegas SKYWARNTM Spotter program, please send an e-mail to: Andy Gorelow and Chelsea Kryston, SKYWARNTM Spotter Coordinators. 
Your interest in SKYWARNTM is greatly appreciated.

  Training Brochures
  CoCoRaHS Community Precipitation Network