SKYWARN is a public safety partnership between the National Weather Service (NWS), local emergency managers (EMs) and the general public. The NWS provides training to storm spotters while the EMs are more involved with the organization and logistical end of scheduling training and organizing the groups.
Typically, the NSW calls the local EM to activate area spotters when significant or widespread severe weather is expected. Once activated, spotter groups relay their reports through the EM or his designee to the NWS. This implies that spotters will have rapid, two-way field communications (e.g. law enforcement, highway department workers, volunteer or professional fire fighters and local amateur radio operators working with amateur radio emergency services (ARES) groups). We also welcome individuals that wish to operate as independent SKYWARN participants and who can report from their home and/or while in the field.
Each year, the NWS and American Radio Relay League (AARL) organize a special SKYWARN Recognition Day. It celebrates the contributions that volunteer SKYWARN radio operators make to the NWS. During the full day event, SKYWARN operators visit NWS offices and contact other radio operators across the world.
Eddy County partners with about 90 SkyWarn Storm Spotters. About 40 of the SkyWarn Storm Spotters are amateur radio operators and most of these actively participate in storm spotting each season.
Our Storm Spotters have an active interest in weather and protecting our communities during severe weather outbreaks and serve as the eyes and ears of the Midland/Odessa National Weather Service Forecast Office. SkyWarn spotters provide truth in ground information on severe weather events including tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, high winds, heavy rainfall and flash flooding. Our job is to report severe weather to the NWS when we see it so that the proper warning can be issued to the general public in Eddy County by the Midland/Odessa NWSFO.
Eddy County SkyWarn Storm Spotters are encouraged to contact the Eddy County SkyWarn command center directly with their spotter reports and then these reports are relayed to the Midland/Odessa NWSFO via amateur radio and by other means. These reports are also relayed to our local radio stations (KSVP/KTZA/KPZE) as well.
SKYWARN™ is a concept developed in the early 1970's that was intended to promote a cooperative effort between the National Weather Service and communities. The emphasis of the effort is often focused on the storm spotter, an individual who takes a position near their community and reports wind gusts, hail size, rainfall and cloud formations that could signal a developing tornado. Another part of SKYWARN™ is the receipt and effective distribution of National Weather Service information.
The organization of spotters and the distribution of warning information lies with the National Weather Service or with an emergency management agency within the community. This agency could be a police or fire department or often is an emergency management/service group (what people might still think of as civil defense groups). This varies across the country however, with local national weather service offices taking the lead in some locations, while emergency management takes the lead in other areas.
SKYWARN™ is not a club or organization, however, in some areas where Emergency Management programs do not perform the function, people have organized SKYWARN™ groups that work independent of a parent government agency and feed valuable information to the National Weather Service. While this provides the radar meteorologist with much needed input, the circuit is not complete if the information does not reach those who can activate sirens or local broadcast systems.
SKYWARN™ spotters are not by definition "Storm Chasers". While their functions and methods are similar, the spotter stays close to home and usually has ties to a local agency. Storm Chasers often cover hundreds of miles a day. The term "Storm Chaser" covers a wide variety of people. Some are meteorologists doing specific research or are gathering basic information (like video) for training and comparison to radar data. Others chase storms to provide live information for the media and others simply do it for the thrill.
Storm Spotting and Storm Chasing is dangerous and should not be done without proper training, experience and equipment.
The National Weather Service conducts spotter training classes across the United States and your local National Weather Service office should be consulted as to when the next class will be held.
If you would like to join the Eddy County Skywarn Team, please visit this website.