The Skywarn® Program
Skywarn® is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service’s (NWS) severe weather spotting program with nearly 290,000 trained volunteers nationwide. Since the late 1960s, trained Skywarn® spotters have helped support the NWS’ primary mission of protecting life and property through the issuance of severe weather warnings. These dedicated citizens help keep their local community safe by conveying severe weather reports to their local NWS Forecast Office. Skywarn® spotters are integral to the success of our Nation’s severe weather warning system.
Every year the NWS conducts Skywarn® spotter training sessions. The NWS currently has 122 Weather Forecast Office’s across the nation, each with a Warning Coordination Meteorologist, who is responsible for administering the Skywarn® program in their local area. There is no charge and a typical class takes about 2 hours to conduct. To find out when a Skywarn® spotter class will be conducted in the Tallahassee area, please check out our local Meteorological Warning Coordination Site at: https://www.weather.gov/tae/taeskywarn
Skywarn® and the American Radio Relay League
The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is a noncommercial membership organization of radio amateurs, organized for the promotion of interest in Amateur Radio. The National Weather Service works with ARRL Section Amateur Radio Emergency Service volunteers at the local level to establish Skywarn® radio networks, and/or other specialized weather emergency alert and relief systems. These local Skywarn® radio organizations act as communicators and spotters when severe weather and other disasters strike. The working partnership between NWS and ARRL is formally documented through a Memorandum of Understanding. NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologists are responsible for maintaining this working partnership with the local ARRL Skywarn® volunteers.
Skywarn® Recognition Day and the American Radio Relay League
Skywarn® Recognition Day was developed in 1999 by the NWS and ARRL. It celebrates the contributions that volunteer Skywarn® radio operators make to our nation’s severe weather warning system. During the day Skywarn® operators visit NWS offices and contact other radio operators across the world.
To report severe weather: Call 850-942-8833 (option 9 to ring through to forecaster)
Although the NWS office at Tallahassee has obtained modernized equipment such as the WSR-88D Doppler radar to better detect severe weather, SKYWARN® spotters continue to be essential to our warning process. Even with all the new technology, an accurate report from a SKYWARN® spotter often provides critical information required by the forecasters to issue timely warnings, which can save lives.
If you live within our forecast area, we invite you to become part of the SKYWARN® program. We offer seminars that train spotters to identify and report severe weather, and to also look for indications that severe weather may be imminent.
A very important part of our SKYWARN® network is Amateur (HAM) Radio. HAM radio operators, or HAMs, are a valuable resource to the NWS because of their ability to communicate during times of severe weather when other communication media may fail. Many HAMs have radios in their cars, which allows them to "go mobile" and get to areas where severe weather is occurring.
At least one HAM is also stationed at the NWS office when severe weather is occurring. It is the duty of this HAM to act as a network controller by relaying information between HAMs in the field and NWS personnel. HAMs report their positions and eyewitness reports, while NWS personnel give information about storm locations and motions. This allows the net controller to instruct other HAMs where to go.
Any amateur radio or county government organization that would like to receive SKYWARN® spotter training should contact Mark Wool.