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  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber Firefighter430's Avatar
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    Default Skywarn Spotters Out there?

    How many of you are NWS Skywarn Spotter Cert. ? Have you reported anything big like a tornado? Any stories? About the biggest thing I have reported is 2" hail a few years ago. For those of you who don't know what a spotter is here's some information.

    What is SKYWARN?


    SKYWARN is a concept developed in the early 1970s that was intended to promote a cooperative effort between the National Weather Service and communities. The emphasis of the effort is often focused on the storm spotter, an individual who takes a position near their community and reports wind gusts, hail size, rainfall, and cloud formations that could signal a developing tornado. Another part of SKYWARN is the receipt and effective distribution of National Weather Service information.
    The organization of spotters and the distribution of warning information may lies with the National Weather Service or with an emergency management agency within the community. This agency could be a police or fire department, or often is an emergency management/service group (what people might still think of as civil defense groups). This varies across the country however, with local national weather service offices taking the lead in some locations, while emergency management takes the lead in other areas.

    SKYWARN is not a club or organization, however, in some areas where Emergency Management programs do not perform the function, people have organized SKYWARN groups that work independent of a parent government agency and feed valuable information to the National Weather Service. While this provides the radar meteorologist with much needed input, the circuit is not complete if the information does not reach those who can activate sirens or local broadcast systems.

    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.

    The National Weather Service conducts spotter training classes across the United States, and your local National Weather Service office should be consulted as to when the next class will be held.
    "Illegitimis non carborundum."

    - Gen. Joseph Stilwell
    (Lat., "Don't let the *~#%&S grind you down.")


  2. #2
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    Default Not yet

    I've been thinking about pursuing this, but haven't done so yet. I read on the NWS site that ham radio operators are especially desired as spotters, but that it's not a requirement. Are you a radio operator, and if so would you recommend that first?

    I'm interested to hear more first hand experiences.

    Eric

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber Firefighter430's Avatar
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    LFD221

    I am not a ham operator and it's not needed but it may be good to have. Our weather office likes to have phoned in reports and according to the handouts they only mon. ham radioes when there is a major weather problem and then only at 8.00 AM, 1:00PM, & 7:00PM for one hour each. There may be private operators (schools, colleges, clubs, etc.) that take weather news at other times but don't know.
    "Illegitimis non carborundum."

    - Gen. Joseph Stilwell
    (Lat., "Don't let the *~#%&S grind you down.")

  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber SamsonFCDES's Avatar
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    I am a weather spotter myself. Since I became the DES (Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator) for my home county I have helped train about 100 skywarn spotters so far over the last 2 years.

    Next week we are having our ceremony with the Weather Service. We just became "Storm Ready"!!! Day after that the conty just south of us is going another spotter training. Our area (South East Montana, Fallon/Carter Counties) does not have good radar coverage. We (DES/Weather Service) truely rely on the spotters to let us know whats going on.

    Storm Ready

    http://www.stormready.noaa.gov/

    I am always out chasing the server thunder storms, mostly to keep a watch for wildfire...and its always fun being first on scene so I can IC the fire.

    The most severe weather I reported personaly was huge hail/wind/lightning form T Storms. I have chased a few tornadoes, but I have never managed to get close enough to see/take pictures. Probly for the best!

    My absolute favorite thing in the world is when I am chasing a T Storm and see the lightning hit...see the smoke column devlop...report back to dispatch the location...request some resources...and arive on scene at the wildfire 20-30 minutes before the first due brush trucks. I have a combi tool that I added a fire swatter to, a pulaskie, mutiple fire extinqueshiers, all of my brush gear, supplies, etc... in my Bronco II. I manage this a few times a summer, and it has lead to me being acused (in jest mind you) of lighting some of the fires!!! I have my digital camera and cam corder to back me up though.

    I am not HAM, I report all of my findings back to our local dispatch center who then pass it on to the WS. I wouldnt mind a mobile HAM though, and I am thinking of getting licensed. We have an EMWIN in the dispatch center so they can also kind of let me know what the sat images look like. The county is covered by 4 very capable repeaters, so there are no deadspots for radio coverage. I use a Bendix King portable radio, the programable hand held sort that the BLM/USFS have used for years. You can program/clone these to match other agencies you might run into. I have a neat little thing in my bronco, a charger/mobile radio unit. You drop the hand held into the charger slot and it charges. Also, the unit turns the hand held into a vehciel mounted radio, IIRC 50W. You have the hand mic, the atena on the roof, etc... So, you not only keep your hand held completely charged up, you also have a vehcile mobile radio. The BK radios also let you use clamshells/AAA bateries. You have the long term indurance needed for wildfire situations that can last days/weeks/longer. I have handy channels like our local weather alert freq programed in.

    I also have a cell phone, but we have spotty coverage. When I can get cell service, I call the Weather Service directly to talk with the warning meteorologist. I know all of our area office guy/gals, I have visited them at their office, had them come visit me, and have drank a few beers with them. They just love it when they can hear the hail and wind asaulting my poor old Bronco.

    I kind of purchased my 88 Bronco 2 4x4 just for this sort of thing. It is my trail buggy, storm chase unit, daily driver, storage locker for my PPE, office (with laptop when needed), tent, etc... The county does not provide me with a vehicle at this time, by mutual agreement. We are not a poor county, but we try to pinch pennies when possible. Some folks think I am crazy for useing a POV for this sort of work, I strom chase, respond to emergencies, etc.. I get paid 37.5 cents a mile to bounce around in the Bronco II. It is sort of funny when we have a incident involing other counties. Those guys show up in newer Ford Expeditions, etc...I have my BII. But, my BII has been know to fit into some trails and places the bigger vehicles cant.

    There are also some insurance considerations, not my vehicle insurance, but insurance in regaurds to me screwing up at a emergency. I am covered for liability through my position. The county has a policy that no county owned vehicles are to be taken/parked at home. By using my own vehicle for this sort of thing I dont have to go the 10 miles to the court house, jump in a pickup, and then go looking for fun. I can just leave from home.

    I got it for $1600, a real bargan, it was in pretty good shape, mechanicaly sound. There was NO WAY I was going to take my 2000 Ford F250 pickup out into hail and such. I gave the Bronco II a VERY thick coat of Rhino liner...the entire thing! It is armored in the poly/rubber coating and pretty much imune to hail. I Rhino lined the tops of the windows that can be hit hard by hail, so far it has worked fine. Grippy mud tires and off road lights.

    One thing to not, I do not, will not, and dont condone emergency lights and warning devices on POVs. There is NO WAY I would ever put flashers/siren on any of my POV, not even the Bronco witch is expected to be seen at emergencies happenins. I dont excede the speed limit/traffic laws in my POV, or if I am in a true emergency vehicle. I am NOT a wacko. I dont think wackos are thinking things through. If the county wants me to respond with lights and sirens they are going to have to purchase me a dedicated vehicle. Thats just my policy. The emgency service radio is where I draw the line! That, and a few small reflective stickers, 1 says FCDES, 1 says 104 (my dispatch number, and one that says PVFD (my voly FD). That is it, and those are only there so the LE guys dont tow my POV away if they find it parked at an emergency scene and I am not around/off hicking around a fire or something.

    Last week we had a small tornado take out 5 power poles and knock out power to both towns in the county...not one of my weather spotters called it in or saw it.

    Bad luck, and realy there was so much wind and cruddy weather you would have to have been right under it to see it.

    I am no seasoned weather watcher by any means, but since takeing this DES job I have gotten a lot more interested in it. Back when I was worried about fire only, I just enjoyed the lightning show and waied for the pager to go off.

    I am sort of hooked on T Storms now, I love the high plains of Eastern MT, some of the best T Storm county in the US!
    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

  5. #5
    Forum Member StayBack500FT's Avatar
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    I been a Spotter since 1996...I have reported flooding and damage reports from my area.
    May we never forget our fallen, worldwide.

    I.A.C.O.J. Safety/Traffic Control Officer

    E6511

    "Who's Who Among American Teachers" - 2005, 2006 Honoree

  6. #6
    Forum Member HFRH28's Avatar
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    Default

    My father, who is the county Emergency Management Coordinator, and I both have taken the SKYWARN Basic and Advanced Classes and we are both Technician Level HAM Operators. Neither one of us have actually done much in the way of spotting, and it's hard to, being that if something goes down, we're probably going to be tied doing other things and nowhere near a phone or HAM radio. The County Dispatch center has a phone number that will directly connect them to a NWS Meteorologist on duty, and we can report to the dispatcher and then relay it to the meteorologist, or the meteorologist can tell us what to expect if we have a major incident in progress.

    Our county is also storm ready, with a roadsign at on every major highway coming into the county.

    HAM is not needed to be a spotter, but can be a big help if you have a county HAM repeater and can relay information.

  7. #7
    MembersZone Subscriber SamsonFCDES's Avatar
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    I have had that theory run by me before in regaurds to being out in the field. "Shouldnt you be in the bomb shelter when a storm is comming?"

    Well, yes and no. It is much easier to figure out what is going down if you are there to see it yourself. I have good communications, my laptop, and a good dispatch center so I can do pretty much everything from the field that I can do form the bomb shelter.

    In the bomb shelter my radio doesnt work to good, walls are to thick.

    If there is going to be an extended incident then they will lock me in the EOC, but for the majority of the happenings there wont be an EOC activation.

    Our most common even where the EOC is activated is a major wildfire. Even then, I dont spend hardly any time there. Most everything that is important is going to be happening at the fire command tent/trailer/pickup hood/log so I am usualy out with the IC Team.
    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

  8. #8
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    I have been a weather spotter for over 10 years in ND. I have seen just about everything. The best though, about three years ago,first week in June four tors on the ground at the same time with in about five miles. Seen 7 different tors on the ground and 11 funnels that day. What a day, we caught most on video and the NWS is using them in their Skywarn classes. Oh, I also was in a strom that produced 5-inch hail...that was interesting too.

    The county EM and myself have spearheaded several different weather related projects. Including making our community the first StormReady community in ND and building a new NOAA weather radio tower and transmitter in our area. We have worked along time on the weather radio project and it is nice to see it reality. The county em and I have acually been awarded the "Mark Trail" award for weather radio, the NWS is flying us to DC the first week of June to receive this award.

    As I type this the weather radio has alerted four times. We are getting some interesting weather in central/eastern ND this evening. We have it all tonight: AT 6:45 PM CST: severe thunder watch, four severe thunder warnings, tornado watch, three tornado warnings, winter weather advisory, high wind advisory and a flood statement all valid within 150 miles as I type this.
    Last edited by toddman; 05-11-2004 at 07:54 PM.

  9. #9
    Forum Member safetyhappy's Avatar
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    I'm one for St. Louis County, MO. I've called in some reports of large hail before.
    Why do I *always* have to be the calm one?
    Note to self: first spell check then post.

  10. #10
    Forum Member safetyhappy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not yet

    Originally posted by LFD221
    I've been thinking about pursuing this, but haven't done so yet. I read on the NWS site that ham radio operators are especially desired as spotters, but that it's not a requirement. Are you a radio operator, and if so would you recommend that first?

    I'm interested to hear more first hand experiences.

    Eric
    I do my reports by phone. The region office here has a new beta reporting system over the net but they like us to report in over the phone first. The area I report for uses GMRS reporting as well. http://www.stlouisco-skywarn.org/
    Why do I *always* have to be the calm one?
    Note to self: first spell check then post.

  11. #11
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    The emergency services in South Dakota have been doing weather spotter services for many years. We normally report via radio to emergency management who then forwards the info to the weather service by phone.

    We are in the process of switching to a statewide digital trunked radio system. NOAA is included in the system so the observers will be able to talk directly to the NOAA offices. This will allow quicker notifications and elimnate the "middle man" thus reducing errors.

    Stay Safe
    IACOJ

  12. #12
    Forum Member cellblock's Avatar
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    Here in Baton Rouge there's no formal SKYWARN program in place. There was a weekly SKYWARN Net on a 2meter Ham repeater but it died a couple of months ago due to lack of support/check-ins. Earlier this year we had a NWS 3 hour SKYWARN Basic class which several local hams attended. Additionally I have completed the Anticipating Haz Weather course from FEMA.
    Nothing interesting enough to report to NWS yet.
    Steve
    EMT/Security Officer

  13. #13
    Forum Member Weruj1's Avatar
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    Departments in our county get toned out for severe weather, and some of the more rural parts get "colorful" to say the least. We send our apparatus out to different parts of the town to spot. We are hoping to get more of this training to assit us during sever weather.
    IACOJ both divisions and PROUD OF IT !
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  14. #14
    MembersZone Subscriber pvfire424's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Spotting tools...

    What fancy tools or gadgets do y'all use when out spotting
    or before you leave to go spot?

    Myself , I have a Uniden 780 scanner to listen to all
    the other spotters out there. I recently bought a laptop
    to use while spotting. I am hoping to get some wireless internet
    for it to download radar info while out in the field. I also have the software installed on it to record any footage to the Hard drive.

    My brother recently got his Ham license (KC0SEE)and he has an Icom 75watt vhf rig. he also has a wide band portable Icom radio primarioy used for scanning the local spotters & fire departments.

    We both have sony handy cams , his is a HI8 and mine is a digital 8 we hope to get some storm footage soon so we can compare quality of digital vs hi 8.

    Before we go out we check with the Storm Prediction Center in Norman , OK http://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/ this gives us a good idea of where we might find some "action"

    Good luck out there & STAY SAFE !!

  15. #15
    MembersZone Subscriber Dickey's Avatar
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    Been a spotter since 1992. I've reported everything but a tornado. Does a couple funnel clouds count? hehehe

    You do not need to be a Ham operator. As long as you have a cell phone or some means of communication to the National Weather Service in a very timely manner, not waste time that is. They base their Warnings or Watches on the information you provide so it has to be live or real close to real time information.

    It's fun and interesting. Course I love storms too.

    Keep your head down and your powder dry.
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    Lt.Jason Knecht
    Altoona Fire Rescue
    Altoona, WI

  16. #16
    MembersZone Subscriber Firefighter430's Avatar
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    picture if anybody needs it for cards, stationary, etc.
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    "Illegitimis non carborundum."

    - Gen. Joseph Stilwell
    (Lat., "Don't let the *~#%&S grind you down.")

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