In the December issue of Allen County HamNews, I hinted at a possible change in reporting criteria for SKYWARN spotters. During a conference call with leaders of IMO SKYWARN, NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Michael Lewis discussed a goal for spotter reports. Lewis wants reports to be based more on weather impact than on measurements such as wind speed or hail size. For example, if the weather does damage or causes injury, Lewis wants to know about it, even if conditions do not meet traditional reporting criteria.
- Why to report
- What to report
- How to report (including telephone, ham radio, etc. and new tools like social media)
- Where to obtain the reports of others (for situational awareness)
- Skywarn Spotter Training — https://www.meted.ucar.edu/training_course.php?id=23 — (a two-module course including modules on the role of the spotter and basics of convection)
- 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)
- Education. By learning all we can about meteorology, we can assure that all our reports are valid and valuable.
- Technology. By becoming familiar with and using other technologies to supplement ham radio (e.g. tweeting photos from smart phones), we can provide a more complete service while demonstrating our ability to stay on the “cutting edge.”
- Procedures. By insisting on sounding as professional as possible when we communicate, we can build credibility among any IWT members who monitor or receive our reports.
If you’re a trained SKYWARN storm spotter, who in your family knows more than you about severe weather? How about in your neighborhood, place of employment or place of worship?
Unlike most of your family, friends and coworkers, you know that a tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes and a tornado warning means it’s time to take cover. You know that flooding kills more people in northern Indiana than do tornadoes. You know that most people cannot rely on tornado sirens to warn them of danger.
Chances are, in most (if not all) of your circles, you are the severe weather expert.
I’d like to propose, therefore, that you have more responsibility than observing and reporting severe weather. You should also be a weather safety advocate.
I wrote in a previous post that many residents of Joplin, Missouri initially ignored warnings of the tornado that would devastate part of their city. Compared to years past, the National Weather Service is able to issue more specific warnings earlier than ever before. But for too many people, these advances are wasted, because they don’t know how to react to the information. That’s where you come in.
Be an advocate. Advise your friends and family to buy weather alert radios. Help program the radios. Help them learn how to interpret and react to severe weather information. Make sure they know that a tornado warning means “take shelter,” not “go outdoors to look.” Teach them they’re not necessarily in the clear just because 10 minutes have passed without a tornado.
We can be the best possible weather spotters but if the people we’re trying to protect don’t know what to do, what’s the point?
|Storm Chaser Reed Timmer|
He gave an excellent presentation that focused on the science he does when he’s chasing. Yes, he does real science; he doesn’t just pay it lip service. I’ve attended several symposiums to further my education beyond what the NWS provides in basic spotter training but I still learned some things from Reed’s talk. His discussion of suction vortices in tornadoes was particularly interesting. So was his data plot that showed wind speeds during a tornado intercept dropping to 8 MPH and then increasing to 138 MPH (or was it knots … I don’t remember) in a second or less.
Tornado warnings issued before and during the Joplin tornado. Notice how some of the warning polygons overlap. Graphic courtesy NWS.
Garnet reported that due to warning desensitization, most Joplin residents did not take immediate action when they learned of the NWS tornado warning. Instead, most sought additional information, including going outside to look for the storm, eating away at the 21 minutes between the warning and the beginning of EF-4 tornado damage.
While tornadoes were slamming southern Indiana March 2, I was in a severe weather symposium in Columbus, Ohio. How ironic is that? Everyone in the room was using laptops, tablets and smart phones to keep eyes on the situation. One of the meteorologist presenters volunteered to give us all a meteorological briefing on the situation during lunch. It was fascinating. I’ll write more about the symposium and some interesting stuff I learned in another post.
After I got home, some Fort Wayne hams were talking on VHF and UHF about what kinds of communication support they be asked to provide as a result of the disaster. Based on a SITREP-style news release that the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) put out just before midnight, it appears the answer is, “not much:” “Communications: Only limited communication issues are being reported at this time.”
IDHS is posting updates regarding the disaster on their Facebook page. You don’t have to be a Facebook member to see the updates. Go to:
Here’s a shortened link for tweets, etc: