The Monongalia Wireless Association and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service assist in providing training to individuals wanting to learn more about weather and weather reporting.
Please note for basic and advanced Skywarn training the Pittsburgh National Weather Service uses online webinars for training now.
Here in northern WV we are quite a ways from the radar at the Pittsburgh NWS and activity below 5000ft is not visible for NWS radar to determine exactly what is happening in our area during severe weather. Information you can provide is very important to the NWS, this data is used to formulate forecasts for those that have yet to encounter the moving storm. If your not already a member please consider joining. If you have a weather station start logging data before and after storms as they move through the area. This is a fascinating part of our hobby that also provides an important public service. To the right are links for information and material to begin as a SKYWARN spotter in your area.
THE GOALS OF AMATEUR RADIO SKYWARN
- To create a network of amateur radio operators to report severe weather conditions.
- To active this network as needed.
- To coordinate reports from area spotters in a professional manner.
- To relay these reports to the National Weather Service in a timely manner.
ACTIVATING THE NETWORK
Methods of initial awareness of severe weather and the need to activate the network:
- Receive a call from the NWS requesting reports.
- NOAA Weather Radio, local TV or Radio. If your county is under a Severe Thunderstorm , Flash Flood or Tornado Warning, THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THE NWS NEEDS YOUR REPORTS!
- Tune to your local repeater, where Skywarn nets are held, other amateurs may have already activated a Skywarn net.
- If you are hearing reports on the local repeater that meet the criteria as set by the National Weather Service.
- Request by local or state emergency services or ourARES Emergency Coordinator.
PLEASE NOTE: The need for activation occurs when only one of the above criteria is met.
CRITERIA FOR REPORTING
- FUNNEL CLOUD
- WALL CLOUDS
- ROTATING THUNDERSTORMS
- WIND GUSTS ( estimated or measured 45mph or more )
- WIND DAMAGE ( trees, roofs, etc. )
- HAIL ( with size report of largest stones )
- HEAVY RAIN ( 0.75 inches or greater in one hour or less or 3 inches in any time period less than 24 hours )
- FLOODING ( basements, exstensive street flooding, small stream flooding )
- CONTINUOUS LIGHTNING or FIRE DAMAGE CAUSED BY LIGHTNING
- ANY DEATH OR INJURY DUE TO ANY OF THE ABOVE
THE 3 MOST IMPORTANT PARTS OF A REPORT
- TIME ( time of occurance )
- EVENT TYPE ( hail, tornado, flooding, etc. )
- LOCATION ( County, directions & distance to nearest town )
Often severe storms strike quickly and are isolated in our area. There will be times when there is no radio operator at the NWS to make direct contacts with you. This is when your main link to the NWS is by land line using the number (412) 262-2170. One person usually the net control operator should be the one delegated to using this number so as to mininmize unessisary duplication of information to the NWS. When calling the NWS identify yourself and what County you are reporting about.
The NWS can provide information on the current watch or warning for your county and a breif radar synopsis. It is up to the net control operator to determine what level of net activation is required given the reported circumstances. The degree needed varies but can be effectively arranged into a 4 tier system.
NET ACTIVATION TO CONDITION STANDBY
When a severe thunderstorm watch has been issued but no weather activity has occured in the area. Note the experation time of the watch.
A net control station will then be established and take and log check-ins. Now is the best time to establish where potential observers are located for the upcoming event, not when the severe weather is hitting. The net control station will also relay watch information frequently. Normal use of the repeater will continue, however, please leave a pause between transmissions should net control need to break in to take the net to a higher level. As the storms approach your area, the net may need to be fully activated. There are three levels of full activation.
NET ACTIVATION TO CONDITION GREEN
Used during all tornado watches and during severe thunderstorm watches when active weather is occuring.
Nets for Flood/Flash Flood Watches are normally not required. There may be exceptions when the NWS would request additional spotter reports, ex. remnants of a tropical storm moving through the area.
The first priority, during condition green, would be taking and relaying weather reports to the NWS. Second would be check-ins. The Net Control Station takes control of frequency and gives frequent updates on net status and weather watches. Prepare for further upgrade as storms approach or if severe weather reports begin coming in.
NET ACTIVATION TO CONDITION YELLOW
Used if a severe thunderstorm warning and / or flash flood warning has been issued for your County.
Priority must be given to collecting and relaying weather reports, No check-ins or checkouts at this time. Net Contol will announce warning information frequently. Only reports meeting the criteria mentioned earlier should be requested. “It’s not raining here” reports are not needed, unless requested.
NET ACTIVATION TO CONDITION RED
Used if a tornado warning has been issued for your County.
- NET CONTROL STATION TAKES TOTAL CONTROL OF THE FREQUENCY.
- NET CONTROL STATION REQUESTS TORNADO, FUNNEL CLOUD AND WALL CLOUD REPORTS.
- NET CONTROL REQUESTS REPORTS OF THE ABOVE MENTIONED CRITERIA.
- STATIONS WITH NO EVENT TO REPORT SHOULD MAINTAIN RADIO SILENCE.
- NET CONTROL WILL RELAY TORNADO WARNING INFORMATON FREQUENTLY.
Condition RED events are rare. However, real emergency organization in these instances is what will make the NWS, trained spotters and all licensed amateurs involved with ARES fulfill their missions and shine.
Often, if one waits until a warning is issued, it is too late to organize spotters, collect reports and relay them to the NWS in a timely manner. Spotters are also requested to check-in/check-out in Stand-by and Condition Green. This will help net control know where available spotters are before the storm moves through the county.
If you have any questions about the NWS SKYWARN program, don’t hesitate to contact the Pittsburgh National Weather Service.
- Administrative: (412) 262-1591
- Weather recording: (412) 262-2170
- River information: (412) 262-5290
National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office Pittsburgh
192 Shafer Road
Moon Township, PA 15108