The Northern Indiana office of the National Weather Service hosted a conference call with leaders of IMO SKYWARN Nov. 19. During the call, Warning Coordination Meteorologist Michael Lewis formally announced that the NWS has suspended plans for local NWS-led SKYWARN spotter training in 2013. Although the federal government’s fiscal year began October 1, Congress had not yet passed a budget for the fiscal year, leaving the NWS with no idea how much it can spend on the travel and overtime that spotter training requires. Lewis indicated that after Congress passes a 2013 budget, there is a possibility that the NWS will be able to conduct spotter training in 2013, but such training sessions would likely not occur before storm season begins.
Lewis said all SKYWARN operationswill continue without change. IMO SKYWARN nets on amateur radio will continue to function as they have in 2012 and the NWS will continue to receive spotter reports on the same toll-free telephone number it has used in the past.
Lewis emphasized that the NWS wants all SKYWARN spotters to receive the message that their services continue to be essential, despite the suspension of annual training.
Lewis said he hopes that spotters and potential spotters will take advantage of available online training modules. He specifically recommended the following resources:
- Northern Indiana NWS SKYWARN Information Web page (http://www.crh.noaa.gov/iwx/?n=nwsnorthernindianaskywarnpage)
- “Role of the SKYWARN spotter” from The COMET® Program (http://www.meted.ucar.edu/spotter_training/spotter_role/)
- “SKYWARN Spotter Convective Basics” from The COMET® Program (http://www.meted.ucar.edu/spotter_training/convective/)
- “Spotter Report Data Quality” from the NWS Warning Decision Training Branch (http://wdtb.noaa.gov/modules/spotters/player.html)
- “Storm Spotter Training” from the Des Moines, Iowa NWS office (http://www.crh.noaa.gov/dmx/presentations/spotter-training/NWS-Spotter-Training_files/v3_document.htm)
- Spotter Network (www.spotternetwork.org)
- SKYWARN Weather Spotter’s Field Guide (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/brochures/SGJune6-11.pdf)
Lewis noted that the COMET system will notify the local NWS office when spotters complete its training modules. Therefore, spotters who did not attend training in 2012 or 2011 can avoid being dropped from the rolls by taking the COMET training in 2013.
Lewis indicated that volunteers might conduct their own in-person spotter training sessions in 2013. The NWS will not, however, be able to provide any training materials to such volunteers. He recommended that volunteer trainers use the online training resources above (especially those provided by The COMET® Program) as the basis for their presentations.
Lewis also said that the local NWS office might explore the possibility of conducting live, online training sessions (webinar-style) from the office. But he indicated it was too early to know whether or when that might happen.
In other news from the conference call, the IMO SKYWARN leaders and Lewis briefly discussed advanced spotter training. IMO SKYWARN has sponsored advanced training every other year for several years and 2013 would normally be the year of the next event. Past events depended heavily on support from the NWS. Specifically, NWS travel budgets supported the participation of NWS meteorologists from outside our area as expert speakers. Lewis said NWS has forbidden all such travel in 2013. IMO SKYWARN has not yet decided whether it will try to host advanced training in 2013 without that NWS support.