The effects of severe weather are felt every year by many Americans. To obtain critical weather information, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, established Skywarn® with partner organizations. Skywarn® is a volunteer program with nearly 290,000 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.
The Skywarn® spotter takes a position in their community and reports wind gusts, hail size, rainfall rates, and cloud formations that could signal a developing tornado. Although Skywarn® spotters can provide essential information for all types of weather hazards, the main responsibility of a Skywarn® spotter is to identify and describe severe local storms.
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.
How to Get Involved
You must attend the mandatory training held each year and have a way of communicating storm reports to the NWS. In Garland, our storm spotting is handled by volunteer members of our Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) organization. Below you will find information about attending the Garland Skywarn Training School and becoming a member of Garland RACES.
The annual Dallas County Skywarn® Training is conducted annually in Garland, typically in late February, and covers:
- Basic severe weather safety
- Basics of thunderstorm development
- Fundamentals of storm structure
- How to report information
- Identifying potential severe weather features
- Information to report
Skywarn is free of charge and typically runs about 6 hours broken into two 3-hour blocks. The program is broken into multiple lessons that have something to offer citizens at every level - from beginner to advanced. Be sure to check back around the first of the year for more information about the upcoming storm spotter training.