AGENCY PARTNERS: NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AND SKYWARN
SKYWARN® is a volunteer program with nearly 300,000 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 (NWS). Their responsibility is to identify and describe severe local storms.
During severe weather it is imperative that emergency managers receive severe thunderstorm, tornado, or flash flood warnings as soon as possible so they can take action in protecting the community. SKYWARN storm spotters are an integral part of the warning process. “Ground truth” reports from spotters are passed along to NWS and, in turn, passed along to emergency management officials.
NWS encourages anyone with an interest in public service and access to communication, such as HAM radio operators, to join the SKYWARN program. Volunteers include police and fire personnel, dispatchers, EMS workers, public utility workers and other concerned private citizens. Individuals affiliated with hospitals, schools, churches, nursing homes or who have a responsibility for protecting others are also encouraged to become a spotter.
Training classes, taught by NWS personnel, last around two hours. Each of the 10 National Weather Service Forecast Offices in Texas offers the training, typically in the winter and early spring months. While anybody can take the free training, attendees should be at least 18 years of age. If younger, we ask that they be accompanied by an adult.
Depending on location, the Spotter training classes can be very small with only a few attendees, while in major metropolitan areas, classes of over 300 are not uncommon. For example, in the 33 counties that make up South Central Texas, the Austin-San Antonio NWS trains nearly 1,000 new spotters every spring.
If you are interested in attending a training session, or setting up a training session for your community, get in touch with your local National Weather Service Office. The Warning Coordination Meteorologist of each National Weather Service office is typically the administrator in charge of the SKYWARN program.
The bottom line is this: severe weather reports help to speed the warning process and get vital information to the citizens and emergency managers of the surrounding communities. We encourage you to be a part of this vital – and interesting – initiative.
Paul Yura, Meteorologist, National Weather Service, Austin-San Antonio Office
For a list of NWS contacts in the state of Texas, you can visit the Texas StormReady contacts Web page. Visit the following websites for more information about the National Weather Service and SKYWARN.