So you want to be a storm spotter - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

So you want to be a storm spotter

SKYWARN is a national network of National Weather Service trained storm spotters SKYWARN is a national network of National Weather Service trained storm spotters
Every year severe weather impacts communities all across America including the Mid-South.  The National Weather Service and local television stations rely information on conveyed by the public during weather events.  To better relay this vital information the National Weather Service established SKYWARN in 1970, a network of trained spotters.  This coupled with Doppler radar and enhanced satellite data has allowed the NWS and local broadcast meteorologist to accurately convey crucial weather information to the public.  This network of spotters and increased technology has also helped to provide better and more timely warning for various elements of severe weather.  Today there are more than 290,000 trained storm spotter across the country.  This vital network provides eyes on the ground for whatever Doppler or satellite data may be indicating during severe weather outbreaks or other significant weather events.  To continue growing this network of spotters local NWS offices conduct spotter training once or twice a year.  Here in the Mid-South our NWS office provides training sessions twice a year in the spring and fall months.  The spring training sessions are about to begin, and the best part is it's free and easy to participate.

If you have an interest in weather as well as public service and a means of communication, such as a cell phone or ham radio, then you are the perfect candidate to become a SKYWARN spotter.  Classes are free, typically last about two hours and are conducted by members of the local NWS office.  Advanced spotter training is also free but requires a bit more time.  The typically training session includes these topics:

  • Basics of thunderstorm development
  • Fundamentals of storm structure
  • Identifying potential severe weather features
  • Information to report
  • How to report information
  • Basic severe weather safety
Once you complete the SKYWARN training you will be ready to relay valuable information regarding severe weather in your vicinity.  This includes wind gusts, hail size, rainfall, cloud formation, and the potential development of tornadoes.  A SKYWARN spotter is not necessarily a storm chaser.  As a matter of fact, there's no need to leave your home.  You just report the information that you see where you are.  Knowing what to report and how to gather the information safely is the most important aspect of the training.  No special equipment is required, it's just a matter of reporting what you see and knowing who to pass that information onto. 

There are several training sessions that will take place in the coming weeks in various locations throughout the Mid-South.  If you have an interest in this and you'd like to know more about the different aspects of severe weather then you should consider a SKYWARN class.  To find a SKYWARN class near you just click on this link from the National Weather Service Office in Memphis and get ready to join the SKYWARN network.  http://www.srh.noaa.gov/meg/?n=skywarn_meetings


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