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Who and What is Skywarn?
Citizens dedicated to protecting life and property


Weather Briefing Page
Sunday, June 17, 2018 12:32



Wichita, KS NWS Office

National Weather Service Office in Wichita, KS

Who and What is SKYWARN®?

NWS offices across the country utilize various spotter networks for severe and other inclement weather verification and reporting. The various spotter networks are comprised of emergency management officials, law enforcement, TV meteorologists and radio stations, fire fighters, EMS personnel, and road crews. We also utilize the general public with training taking place during the late winter and early spring as NWS personnel travel to various counties to provide training. A final group of spotters utilized by our NWS office are amateur radio operators. These and other agencies not listed are working together with Wichita Skywarn group members creating an active, reliable sources to protect and serve the public.

SKYWARN® (formed in the early 1970s) is the National Weather Service (NWS) program of volunteer severe weather spotters. SKYWARN® volunteers support their local community and government by providing the NWS with timely and accurate severe weather reports. These reports, when integrated with modern NWS technology, are used to inform communities of approaching severe weather. The focus of SKYWARN® (and of the NWS) is simple...to save lives and property.

Since the 2011, the Dual-Polarized Doppler Weather Radar has provided valuable information to forecasters...with better detection of severe storm phenomena and more accurate and timely warnings. However, even with the advance in technology..."ground truth" is still a very important part of the warning process. "Ground truth" is what is actually occurring. This is especially true as the radar continues to scan higher at as it gets at greater distance from the radar. Is the storm tornadic? Is it producing large hail? How about damaging winds? Most of the "ground truth" is provided by trained storm spotters (through SKYWARN®)...or the "eyes of the NWS."


How do I become a member of SKYWARN?

Skywarn is not really something to be a member of. It’s the concept of using volunteer storm spotters to provide critical information to local communities and to the NWS, and that’s what has driven the storm spotter program since it began decades ago. Your community may have an organized storm spotter network that uses the name Skywarn, and you should contact your local emergency manager to find out what formal spotter networks are in place near you and how you might be able to get involved.

SKYWARN® storm spotters are part of the ranks of citizens who form the nation's first line of defense against severe weather. There can be no finer reward than to know that their efforts have given communities the precious gift of time -- more lead time minutes that can help save lives.

The NWS encourages anyone with an interest in public service and access to communication, such as amateur radio, to join the SKYWARN® program. Volunteers include Emergency Management trained personnel, firefighters, sports directors with summer and school sporting events, and others who have the responsibility of protecting the public are also encouraged to become a spotter.

There are a few essential requirements to becoming a SKYWARN® volunteer.
  • Basics of thunderstorm development
  • Fundamentals of storm structure
  • Identifying potential severe weather features
  • Information to report
  • How to report information
  • Basic severe weather safety
  • Follow posted and normal driving laws
To be a good SKYWARN® member - to be someone that:
  • Is safe and not in the way
  • Gives concise, meaningful, ground truth information
  • Refrains from giving unnecessary weather reports
  • Who has good equipment that functions
  • Who continues to improve their weather education
  • Knows that we are all volunteers, not working for the NWS
Every year the National Weather Service in Wichita conducts spotter training sessions introducing storm aware individuals as to what look for and where to remain safe. What and how to report information and basic severe weather safety are also covered. The class is a multi-media presentation which includes detailed video. The class typically takes around 2 hours. More information on Storm Spotter clases will be posted at the top of this page when they become available. There are no required courses, however you need to be able to show weather knowledge and aptitude.

Amateur Radio Operators

Amateur radio operators are a vital link in the spotter and communication network used by the NWS during severe or otherwise inclement weather. Hams are duty bound by holding an FCC license to help without picuniary gains in many emergency responses. Not only do they report what they see with their own eyes, but they can report what others see, and also provide communications to other NWS offices should normal communication modes fail. If you are interested in learning more about amateur radio, please contact any Skywarn Advisory group member or search for a local club

The largest network of repeaters are owned by individuals and Clubs and dedication to keep things working. This network takes finances to maintain and people to help keep them working optimally. This network of repeaters named K-Link began in its build in 1991 and with a the dream of a few hams and a lot of personal work by Justin, NV8Q. You can hear the Minneapolis repeater Primary feed on Broadcastify 24 hours a day and during severe weather

K-Link and KØHAM/NEKSUN Repeater link systems can be linked together allowing storm coverage from the Wichita NWS area to be monitored in the north central Kansas in the Hastings, NE NWS service areas, the northeast Topeka, KS NWS service area. Providing overlaps with Dodge City NWS and Norman NWS is the the KanOkla Intertie System with 15 more repeaters throughout southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma.
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Sunday, June 17, 2018 12:32

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