WHAT IS SKYWARN?
is a nation wide volunteer network of
severe weather “storm spotters.” This program was originally
developed by the National Weather Service (NWS) in the late 1960’s
on how the public can Identify, Evaluate, and Report severe weather
events. Today there are over 300,000 volunteers and nearly 150 Skywarn groups.
DOES SKYWARN WORK?
When hazardous weather occurs,
trained storm spotters report what is happening at their location.
In southeast Wisconsin the NWS criteria includes: Tornadoes, Funnel
Clouds, Water Spouts, Wall Clouds, Flooding,
Winds greater then 40 MPH, Hail 3/4 inch or larger,
Damage, Visibility less then 1/2 mile, Snow and Ice depths, and
Rain Fall reports. All reports require Time-Location-Condition
information. Reports are relayed to the NWS
offices via unlisted 800
ham radio frequencies,
NAWAS (National Warning System),
E-Spotter, Spotternetwork, Instant Messages, 9-1-1 call enters,
and from Twitter or Facebook social networks
WHO IS THE MILWAUKEE AREA SKYWARN ASSOCIATION?
(MASA is a Wisconsin registered Non-profit, and
federal I-R-S 501(c)3 Tax Exempt corporation providing educational,
scientific, and charitable outreach at a local level to support and
lessen the burden of the
Milwaukee-Sullivan NWS severe weather training programs. MASA is operated and
supported by volunteers and urgently need your help and support.
Please review our
donation "wish list."
WHO CAN BE A STORM SPOTTER?
Almost anyone can be storm
spotter, they come from all walks of life. Typically they are
emergency services personnel ,
volunteer groups and organizations ham radio operators,
cooperative observers or individual citizens. They can young adults
to retired. A keen interest in weather and serving
their community is a common bond.
WHY HAVE SPOTTERS?
The NWS needs to know what the
storms are doing at ground level. Because Doppler radars are
designed to look into the heart of storm clouds it cannot see what
is happening at ground level. "Ground-truth" storm spotter reports
allow the meteorologist to better correlate radar data and spotter
reports to issue more accurate and timely weather warnings, thus protecting life and property.
HOW DO I BECOME A
(1) Attend the annual spring training
classes nearest your location, in the next county, or on-line
They provide the basics and contact information. In Southern
Wisconsin these programs are held from about February thru late
April. (2) Check our
statewide spotter schedule
page, or your nearest local NWS office website for times and dates.
(3) Study our
on-line training links.
(4) Renew your training at least every other year.
DESCRIBE THE TRAINING
Unless noted, all programs are free
of charge, open to the public, and for beginners. Starting in 2012
some programs will be presented on-line. These programs are called
"webinars." Most in-person programs last about
2.5 hours, a question-answer segment, and contact information. Some locations
provide snacks and refreshments. Make sure to come early and bring
pen and paper for note taking. Training certificates and ID's are
usually not issued.
1. Will I be paid
as a storm spotter? No. Storm spotters volunteer their time
2. Age limits for spotters?
Prefer adults 18 years and older., maturity is essential.
3. Who is responsible? Spotting can be dangerous, you
are responsible for your safety.
4. Official I-D badge or training certificates? Some organizations issue them others do
AMATEUR RADIO AND SKYWARN:
A large percentage of storm spotters are
licensed amateur radio operators. Virtually all weather service
offices have amateur radio station setups. During selected severe
weather events amateur
radio operators and other volunteer spotter networks
activate their frequencies
to submit reports to local NWS offices. These radio frequencies can
be heard on most programmable police scanners. Amateur radio operators
have their own reporting criteria. Amateur radio Skywarn activities
first appeared in Milwaukee in Spring 1969.
WHO ACTIVATES THE
National Weather Service may request spotter activation in a
particular region and time, but it is up to the groups and
individual spotters as to when they activate.
Emergency managers, police and fire personnel, and ham radio groups may
different activation requirements
Spotters should prepare to
activate anytime thunderstorms or active weather is forecasted. A
Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Watch always means activate. Seriously
committed spotters and networks need to be proactive and prepare
themselves before storms move in. Keep up with the local forecast
and check the daily
Hazardous Weather Outlooks
(HWO) for your area. The HWO is also
broadcast daily on the NOAA Weather Radio stations and provides
the heads up information on expected stormy weather. Also subscribe
to our funding raising
E-mail weather warning system.
For regional or U-S outlooks check
Severe Weather Panel
page. It shows a 2 day map of all
locations that can expect severe weather and 'hot spots' that are
WHO ORGANIZES LOCAL
It varies by county and organization. Most emergency management personnel and volunteer
groups are self organized and all work with the their local NWS
Warning Coordination Meteorologists. MASA provides information for
all groups and also works very closely with the NWS.
STORM SPOTTER OR STORM
Both spotters and chasers sometimes
perform similar functions. Spotters typically will remain in their
community and report their observations from their home, office, or
vehicle. Chasers will drive several hundred miles a day to
intercept forecasted storms for scientific research, to take
personal or media pictures, or for storm chase tours. Chasers may or may not
report their observations. Chasing is dangerous and requires
an extensive knowledge of storm structure and behavior in order
to be safe. Scripted TV shows are not always realistic.
WHERE DO I STORM SPOT
FROM? You can storm spot
from any location; at home, at work, or on the road. All stationary spotters
must have a safe location to move to, and mobile spotters
must have planned escape routes should the situation become life
threatening. PRIORITIES (1) Your personal safety, and (2)
WHAT EQUIPMENT DO I NEED?
All reports need to be relayed to the NWS, so
at a minimum, a cell or landline telephone. Reports can also be
sent via the your personal computer or tablet. A typical prepared
report can be completed in 45 seconds.
A HISTORY OF SKYWARN AND
has been written by Dr. Chuck
Doswell. Although now retired he is recognized as
one of the
leading severe storms