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The United States is the most severe weather-prone country in the world. Each year, people in this country cope with an average of 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,200 tornadoes, and two landfalling hurricanes. Approximately 90% of all presidentially declared disasters are weather-related, causing around 500 deaths each year and nearly $14 billion in damage.

SKYWARN® is a National Weather Service (NWS) program developed in the 1960s that consists of trained weather spotters who provide reports of severe and hazardous weather to help meteorologists make life-saving warning decisions. Spotters are concerned citizens, amateur radio operators, truck drivers, mariners, airplane pilots, emergency management personnel, and public safety officials who volunteer their time and energy to report on hazardous weather impacting their community.

Although, NWS has access to data from Doppler radar, satellite, and surface weather stations, technology cannot detect every instance of hazardous weather. Spotters help fill in the gaps by reporting hail, wind damage, flooding, heavy snow, tornadoes and waterspouts. Radar is an excellent tool, but it is just that: one tool among many that NWS uses. We need spotters to report how storms and other hydrometeorological phenomena are impacting their area.

SKYWARN® spotter reports provide vital “ground truth” to the NWS. They act as our eyes and ears in the field. Spotter reports help our meteorologists issue timely, accurate, and detailed warnings by confirming hazardous weather detected by NWS radar. Spotters also provide critical verification information that helps improve future warning services. SKYWARN® Spotters serve their local communities by acting as a vital source of information when dangerous storms approach. Without spotters, NWS would be less able to fulfill its mission of protecting life and property.

How does SKYWARN work?

SKYWARN, generally speaking, is placed on stand-by when a severe weather watch is posted by the National Weather Service. Once that watch is upgraded to a warning, SKYWARN may be activated and spotters are asked to make severe weather observations. After making an observation that is reportable, there are three ways to relay the information to the National Weather Forecast Office which include: telephone, amateur radio, and E-mail.


SKYWARN works with ARES, RACES, and the American Red Cross

The NWS utilizes SKYWARN amateur radio operators to maintain close coordination with the American Red Cross and area Emergency Management through both the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES). SKYWARN is formally acknowledged in a Memorandum of Understanding (MAU) between the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the American Red Cross, and the National Weather Service. This agreement states that the ARRL will encourage local volunteers operating under ARES to provide spotters services and Red Cross communications as requested by either the NWS during times of severe weather, or the Red Cross while administering disaster relief efforts.

ARES consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty when disaster strikes or for public events. Amateur radio operators (Hams) are ideally equipped to contribute to the SKYWARN program. National Weather Service offices have amateur radio equipment installed on site and SKYWARN "nets" run by volunteer Ham radio net control operators allow for NWS offices to receive severe weather reports direct. In some cases, amateur radio net coordinators may operate a net for their area and then relay this information via e-mail, FAX, or phone.


Who is Wayne County SKYWARN?

Wayne County SKYWARN is a group of citizens who volunteer their time and skills to serve the Richmond and Wayne County communities watching for and reporting severe weather to the National Weather Service(NWS) in order for the NWS to issue timely, accurate, and detailed warnings to our communities. Although we are all current Amateur Radio Operators, it is not a requirement to be a member of Wayne County SKYWARN.


Who is Eligible?

NWS encourages anyone with an interest in public service and access to communication, such HAM radio, 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.

How Can I Get Involved?

NWS has 122 local Weather Forecast Offices, each with a Warning Coordination Meteorologist, who is responsible for administering the SKYWARN® program in their local area. Training is free and typically last about 2 hours. You’ll learn:

  • Basics of thunderstorm development

  • Fundamentals of storm structure

  • Identifying potential severe weather features

  • Information to report

  • How to report information

  • Basic severe weather safety


Copyright © Wayne County, Indiana SKYWARN

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