eSpotter officially ending

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For several years, a Web-based weather reporting system called “eSpotter” has been available to trained SKYWARN storm spotters. They could obtain accounts from their local National Weather Service (NWS) offices and then used the special website to make any kind of SKYWARN spotter report. The report would be relayed immediately to the appropriate NWS staff member. That system is coming to an end this month, according to a Web page on the northern Indiana NWS website.

As a result of the pending termination of eSpotter, the NWS is no longer creating new accounts on the system. Spotters who already have accounts may continue to use eSpotter until it goes off line, but the NWS is encouraging them to begin using alternative reporting methods in preparation for the termination of eSpotter.

The IMO SKYWARN quadrant two net has used eSpotter in the past to relay reports from ham radio-equipped spotters when the ham radio station at the northern Indiana NWS office (WX9IWX) was not staffed. Over the past year, most quadrant net control station operators have obtained accounts on an internal NWS chat room service called, “NWSChat.” In the future, therefore, if WX9IWX is not staffed during a severe weather event, net control stations can relay hams’ reports via NWSChat. NWSChat accounts are not available to all spotters. They are only available to staff members of the NWS and its government partners, broadcasters and members of the emergency management community (including public safety officials and SKYWARN net control station operators).

For those spotters who are not eligible for NWSChat accounts and who prefer to use an Internet-based reporting method, below are the best alternatives. (This list is focused on the northern Indiana NWS office. To learn how to send tweets, Facebook messages, etc. to other offices, contact those offices):

Coming soon: New Web form Not yet ready, but coming soon to the website of the northern Indiana NWS office, is a Web form that spotters will be able to complete to make storm reports. The data will be displayed immediately on the computer screen of the appropriate forecaster. Keep an eye on for the implementation of this new form.
Twitter Include #nwsiwx in your tweet. It will be noticed almost immediately by the appropriate NWS staff member, as well as by broadcasters, emergency managers and other spotters. This method requires a free Twitter account.
Facebook Go to the local NWS office’s Facebook page and add a post with your report. It will be noticed almost immediately by the appropriate NWS staff member and others who view the page. This method requires a free Facebook account. Use the “Submit severe report” link on the home page (visible only to logged-in users). The report displays immediately on the computer screen of the appropriate NWS forecaster and in NWSChat, where broadcasters and emergency managers can see it. This method requires a free SpotterNetwork account and successful completion of SpotterNetwork’s online spotter training.
Email Only for reports that are not time-critical (such as photos of post-storm damage), send email to Emailed reports are not promptly received by the appropriate NWS staff member.

Of course, non-Internet reporting methods remain available, including ham radio (for licensed operators) and telephone, using the special toll-free number that the NWS provides to spotters when they attend training (if you attended training but don’t have the number, use the email address above to request it).