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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 Can I 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:
Basics of thunderstorm development
Fundamentals of storm structure
Identifying potential severe weather features
Information to report
How to report information
Basic severe weather safety
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.
In Garland, most of our storm spotting is handled by our Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) volunteers. RACES is a radio communication service, provided by volunteer licensed amateurs, trained to provide essential communications and warning links to supplement State and local government assets during emergencies via amateur radio (HAM radio). RACES activation and operation is authorized by emergency management officials only.
We are always looking for amateur radio operators interested in using their skills for public service and emergency communications. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a member of this dedicated team of amateur radio operators we are interested in you.