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. Although Skywarn spotters 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 are dangerous and should not be done without proper training, experience and equipment. ETECS does not advocate storm chasing and will not provide navigational support to storm chasers in our coverage area.
Smith County Skywarn
Tyler & Smith county are located on the western edge of the Shreveport, Louisiana NWS Forecast Office service area, about 80 miles from the Shreveport NWS office & radar site. Due to the curvature of the earth, radar from those NWS locations cannot “see” any weather below about 5000 feet. The NWS relies on reports from Skywarn spotters and other sources to provide “ground truth” to fill in the gaps in their observations.
In Tyler & Smith county, Skywarn is coordinated by Mark Taylor, W5MCT. An Amateur radio license or membership in ETECS is not required to participate in the Skywarn program, however only licensed radio operators may submit reports via amateur radio. Skywarn nets are conducted on the “147” repeater (147.000 -136.5) anytime sever weather threatens Smith county. The 444.400 and 146.960 repeaters may be linked to the 147.000 repeater during Skywarn nets.
Skywarn Storm Spotter Reminders
The most important thing to remember in storm spotting is “Don’t become a victim yourself.” No storm report in worth endangering your family or yourself. Personal safety is paramount.
The reportable criteria we use for reporting during a formal Skywarn net is:
- Hail of any size
- Measured wind speed greater than 50 miles per hour
- Measured rainfall of 2 inches per hour or greater
- Flooding and flash-flooding
- Wall clouds with persistent rotation, funnel clouds or tornadoes
- Any damage caused by high winds
Click here for “cheat sheets” for estimating hail size and wind speed.
The latest radar imagery for the Southern Plains is available: