What is ARES/SKYWARN®?
The United States is the most severe weather-prone country in the
world. Each year, people in this country cope with an average of
10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,200 tornadoes, and two
landfalling hurricanes. Approximately 90% of all presidentially
declared disasters are weather-related, causing around 500 deaths each
year and nearly $14 billion in damage.
SKYWARN® is a National Weather Service (NWS) program developed in
the 1960s that consists of trained weather spotters who provide
reports of severe and hazardous weather to help meteorologists make
life-saving warning decisions. Spotters are concerned citizens,
amateur radio operators, truck drivers, mariners, airplane pilots,
emergency management personnel, and public safety officials who
volunteer their time and energy to report on hazardous weather
impacting their community.
Although, NWS has access to data from Doppler radar, satellite, and
surface weather stations, technology cannot detect every instance of
hazardous weather. Spotters help fill in the gaps by reporting hail,
wind damage, flooding, heavy snow, tornadoes and waterspouts. Radar is
an excellent tool, but it is just that: one tool among many that NWS
uses. We need spotters to report how storms and other
hydrometeorological phenomena are impacting their area.
SKYWARN® spotter reports provide vital “ground truth” to the NWS.
They act as our eyes and ears in the field. Spotter reports help our
meteorologists issue timely, accurate, and detailed warnings by
confirming hazardous weather detected by NWS radar. Spotters also
provide critical verification information that helps improve future
warning services. SKYWARN® Spotters serve their local communities by
acting as a vital source of information when dangerous storms
approach. Without spotters, NWS would be less able to fulfill its
mission of protecting life and property.
How does SKYWARN work?
SKYWARN, generally speaking, is placed
on stand-by when a severe weather watch is posted by the National
Weather Service. Once that watch is upgraded to a warning, SKYWARN may
be activated and spotters are asked to make severe weather
observations. After making an observation that is reportable, there
are three ways to relay the information to the National Weather
Forecast Office which include: telephone, amateur radio, and E-mail.
SKYWARN works with ARES,
RACES, and the American Red Cross
The NWS utilizes SKYWARN amateur radio
operators to maintain close coordination with the American Red Cross
and area Emergency Management through both the Amateur Radio Emergency
Service (ARES) and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES).
SKYWARN is formally acknowledged in a Memorandum
of Understanding (MAU) between the American Radio Relay League (ARRL),
the American Red Cross, and the National Weather Service. This
agreement states that the ARRL will encourage local volunteers
operating under ARES to provide spotters services and Red Cross
communications as requested by either the NWS during times of severe
weather, or the Red Cross while administering disaster relief efforts.
ARES consists of licensed amateurs who
have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for
communications duty when disaster strikes or for public events.
Amateur radio operators (Hams) are ideally equipped to contribute to
the SKYWARN program. National Weather Service offices have amateur
radio equipment installed on site and SKYWARN "nets" run by volunteer
Ham radio net control operators allow for NWS offices to receive
severe weather reports direct. In some cases, amateur radio net
coordinators may operate a net for their area and then relay this
information via e-mail, FAX, or phone.
Who is Wayne County SKYWARN?
Wayne County SKYWARN is a group of citizens who volunteer their
time and skills to serve the Richmond and Wayne County communities
watching for and reporting severe weather to the National Weather
Service(NWS) in order for the NWS to issue timely, accurate, and
detailed warnings to our communities. Although we are all current
Amateur Radio Operators, it is not a requirement to be a member of
Wayne County SKYWARN.
Who is Eligible?
NWS encourages anyone with an interest in
public service and access to communication,
such HAM radio, to join the SKYWARN®
program. Volunteers include police and fire
personnel, dispatchers, EMS workers, public
utility workers and other concerned private
citizens. Individuals affiliated with
hospitals, schools, churches, nursing homes or
who have a responsibility for protecting
others are also encouraged to become a
How Can I Get Involved?
NWS has 122 local Weather Forecast Offices,
each with a Warning Coordination
Meteorologist, who is responsible for
administering the SKYWARN®
program in their local area. Training is free
and typically last about 2 hours. You’ll
- Basics of thunderstorm development
- Fundamentals of storm structure
- Identifying potential severe weather
- Information to report
- How to report information
- Basic severe weather safety