Information for Spotters

All pages in this section by Jeff Draper N5SSI (2012)

The following is a brief version of Skywarn training that I have put together for a reference.

The SKYWARN spotter network is a vital element in the nation's ability to react to dangerous and threatening weather. Spotters are a crucial front-line part of the Weather Service's storm warning program; they provide up-to-the-minute reports on developing storms and for confirming reports on storms that appear threatening. Most importantly, spotters' reports help give communities a first line of defense against hazardous weather.


It does not overstate the importance of spotter reports to say that the weather safety of the U.S. public rests on the quality and timeliness of those ground truth reports. While there have been important strides in storm detection technology, ground truth observations remain crucial to effective storm warnings. And while the scientific understanding of storm structure has grown, on-the-spot observations remain at the heart of continuing to increase that body of knowledge. Spotters are the eyes and ears of the National Weather Service.

Please keep in mind as you read this page, that we are overdue for a major event. The following is from NWS. We can expect another of these events anytime. Question is.......ARE YOU READY?

 

MAY 27...1997 - THE JARRELL TORNADO...A RARE F5 TORNADO...CUT
ACROSS JARRELL...TEXAS LEVELING THE AREA IN ITS PATH.
IT KILLED 27 PERSONS IN JARRELL...1 IN CEDER PARK AND
1 IN PERDENALES VALLEY. THE SYSTEM SPAWNED WIDESPREAD
SEVERE WEATHER WITH HAIL...DAMAGING WINDS...AND
FLASH FLOODING ACROSS MOST OF SOUTH CENTRAL TEXAS.

 

OCTOBER 17 - 18...1998 - TORRENTIAL RAINS FROM TRAVIS COUNTY
SOUTHWARD PRODUCED DAMAGING FLOODS IN ONION CREEK...
THE COLORADO...SAN MARCOS...GUADALUPE...AND SAN ANTONIO
RIVERS. LESSER FLOODING OCCURRED UPSTREAM OF THE
HILL COUNTRY DAMS. A 35 INCH RAINFALL CENTER OCCURRED
A COUPLE OF MILES SOUTHEAST OF SAN MARCOS.
THIRTY ONE PERSONS LOST THEIR LIVES WITH THIS EVENT.

As we all know, Texas weather can change in minutes. Even the Storm Prediction Centers forecasts for Texas are hit or miss at best. There are many variables which come into play in this state. From the clashes of different occurrences of moving weather from different directions, to the range of terrains we have, varying from mountains, to plains, to escarpments, all these things cause our weather to do odd things with usually little notice, though there are some patterns if you pay close attention.

For the most part though, we can have severe weather blow up with little to no notice, so it is vital that we as weather watchers pay close attention during our severe season, which is mainly April, May, and June, with a slight second season in October, November, and even December, during the Hurricane months.


A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
means that a severe thunderstorm is occurring or is just about to move into your area.

You must take action immediately!

If you are outdoors, get inside. Find safe shelter in a building or hard top car.
If you are in the water, get out! Get off the beach!
If you are boating get to land and find safe shelter immediately!

What if there is no safe shelter nearby?

Find a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles, or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding. Don't seek shelter under a large tree that stands alone. If you are in the woods, you can take shelter under a group of shorter trees.

Don't stand on a hilltop (you do not want to be higher than your surroundings)

Don't huddle close together in groups, lightning can easily pass from one person to the next.

Don't hold on to anything metal. Get rid of any metal objects on your body.

Make yourself the smallest target possible.
Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet and place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Do not lie flat on the ground! This will make you a larger target and increase your contact with the wet ground.

 

Stay tuned to your local WeatherNet TV station, NOAA Weather Radio or other media for the latest information.

 


A TORNADO WARNING
means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

YOU MUST TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY!
 

AT HOME:

Go immediately to the lowest level of the house such as a basement or storm cellar. If there is no basement, go to an interior hallway or room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet.

Get away from windows ! (It is not true that opening windows will reduce damage to your home.) Stay in the center of the home.

Protect yourself from flying or falling debris. Get under a stairwell or in a central closet or bathroom. Bathrooms are well known for surviving tornadic winds, mainly due to the plumbing running into the foundation. Mainly, you want to be in a central room, with as many walls as possible between you and the outside and windows. If possible cover yourself with a rug, mattress or blanket. Otherwise, use your arms to protect your head and neck.

IN A MOBILE HOME:

Mobile homes are particularly susceptible to tornado damage. Leave your mobile home immediately and seek shelter in a neighboring frame home or a storm shelter. (You are actually safer lying in a ditch, exposed to the elements, than you are remaining in a mobile home. They can blow over or disintegrate in as little as 70 mph winds, depending on the age and quality of the home. None will withstand much over 100 mph winds.)

If shelter is not available, lie in a ditch or low-lying area a safe distance away from the mobile home. Use your arms to protect your head and neck from debris.

 

IN A HIGH RISE BUILDING:

There may not be enough time to get to the basement or storm shelter. In this case, interior rooms and halls are the best locations in large buildings. Central stairwells are safe locations as well.

Do not attempt to use the elevators.

Stay away from glass walls and windows.

AT SCHOOL, WORK or PUBLIC PLACES:

Your school or workplace should already have an approved tornado safety plan for you to follow. If not then a plan needs to be developed!! Having a plan and following it can save time and lives!!! Every second counts!!!!


Go to the basement or to an inside hallway at the lowest level of the building.

Avoid large, wide places such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways, shopping malls, theaters, and warehouses.

Stay away from glass enclosed areas.

 

OUTDOORS:

Get inside a building if you can.

If shelter is not available or if there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch or low-lying area or crouch near a strong building. Be aware of the potential for flooding. Use your arms to protect your head and neck from debris.

IN A VEHICLE:

Never try to outdrive a tornado in a car or truck.

Get out of the car immediately and take shelter in a nearby building. If there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch or low-lying area away from the vehicle. Be aware of the potential for flooding. Protect your head and neck from debris with your arms.


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Stay tuned to your local WeatherNet TV station, NOAA Weather Radio or other media for the latest information.

 

First of all, lets clarify the severe weather reporting criteria:

(These are the most basic elements of weather reporting, and anyone who has had a Skywarn class, or claims to be involved with a Skywarn group should know these by heart. Try to memorize them.)

  • Rainfall rate in excess of 2" per hour

  • Winds in excess of 58 MPH (50 KTS)

  • Hail 3/4" or larger (a penny is exactly 3/4") report it in inch or coin measurements, not marbles. [Severe hail criteria is now 1" or larger, quarter sized, but EWX NWS requests reports of all hail]

  • Wall Clouds, Funnel clouds, or Tornadoes

IN AN ACTIVE WX NET, DO NOT REPORT ANYTHING BELOW THIS CRITERIA UNLESS REQUESTED TO DO SO BY NET CONTROL. KEEP THE FREQUENCY OPEN FOR EMERGENCY AND PRIORITY TRAFFIC, PEOPLES LIVES ARE AT RISK.

In the following sections. these topics are discussed:

  • Thunderstorms

  • Supercells and Tornadoes

  • Hail

  • Flash Floods

  • Lightning

Click on the section subpages at top to continue reading

© 2020 by Lone Star Storm Spotters Network (LSSN)