First transmitted 9/23/99.

This is the first in series of ARES/SKYWARN training tips.   We will begin with an explaination of what SKYWARN is.  In coming weeks we'll cover operational procedures for Hillsborough County, hurricanes, flooding, winter storms, weather clues, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail, lighting, storm chasing, and other weather related training tips.

SKYWARN is the National Weather Service (NWS) Program of trained volunteer weather spotters. These volunteers support their local community and government by providing the NWS with timely and accurate weather information. These reports...when integrated with modern NWS technology (such as Doppler Radar)...are used to inform communities of the proper actions to take as severe weather threatens.

The SKYWARN program had its origins in the early 1970's and has historically provided critical severe weather information to the NWS so that more accurate and appropriate warnings are issued. The main focus of SKYWARN mirrors the mission of the save life and property.
SKYWARN achieves this objective through the use of observations and reports from trained volunteers.

Despite the most sophisticated and up-to-date technology...including Doppler radar, high resolution satellite imagery, the fastest and most high powered computers and software, and best trained meteorologists in the world...the National Weather Service still needs ground truth reports. Nothing will ever replace the reliability and importance of a trained pair of eyes that can spot and report severe weather.

The participation of Amateur Radio Operators in the SKYWARN program is formally acknowledged and encouraged in a Memorandum of Understanding between the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) and the NWS. The NWS brings its weather knowledge, the Amateur Radio Service brings its expertise in emergency communications...and together...they work with local governments and the Red Cross.

Hillsborough and Cheshire counties of New Hampshire are covered by the NWS Forecast Office in Taunton MA.  The rest of the state is covered by the NWS Forecast Office in Gray, ME.

During actual SKYWARN activations, the NWS will be looking for reports of tornadoes or funnel clouds...damaging winds...hail...heavy rain or flooding. When reporting during severe weather nets, please give your call and name, time and location of the severe weather and/or damage, and exactly what you have seen.

Try to be as specific as possible as to location, time and date of the weather occurrence or related damage. This information is often invaluable to the forecaster issuing the severe weather warnings...and is also quite useful to forecasters looking back at the event. Stored Doppler radar imagery can be correlated to damage and specific storms so that patterns and radar signatures can be better recognized in future events. The damage reports can also be used for storm verification purposes.


SKYWARN activation is usually initiated at the request of the NWS to the SKYWARN liaison, who for NWS Taunton, is Rob KD1CY.  Rob will then attempt to activate SKYWARN nets throughout the NWS Taunton forecast area.  Rob will attempt to contact at least one of several Amateurs from Hillsborough county from a list of names that has been provided him.   These Amateurs are then responsible for calling the SKYWARN nets on the local repeaters, collecting weather and damage reports from stations checking into the net, and for passing these observations to NWS Taunton.  Taunton has a complete amateur radio station on site, and this station will be manned and active during weather emergencies.

Information on the local SKYWARN nets, including frequency plans, contact lists, and reporting criteria are available on the web, at  More information on the operational aspect of the local SKYWARN nets will be given out next week.

When SKYWARN is activated...remember to be brief and specific. Most importantly...put safety first. NEVER go looking for severe weather.

The National Weather Service will be looking for reports of:

   Tornadoes...a rotating funnel cloud reaching the ground
   Funnel not reaching the ground
   Wall cloud...a lowered cloud base
   Rotation...look for a turning of the clouds, especially that of a wall cloud

   Hail...especially that which is dime sized (3/4 inch) or larger

   Damaging winds...the extent of damage...for example blown down trees, power lines, structure damage

   Flooding...roads closed, flooded basements, local streams or rivers close to/or out of their banks

   Heavy rain...1 inch or more of rain in 3 hours or less