The Monongalia Wireless Association and the
Amateur Radio Emergency Service assist in providing training
to individuals wanting to learn more about weather and weather
***For basic & advanced SKYWARN training, the Pittsburgh NWS office mostly uses online webinars for the classes.***
Here in northern WV we are quite a ways from the
radar at the Pittsburgh NWS and activity below 5000ft is
not visable 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 strart 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
THE GOALS OF AMATEUR RADIO SKYWARN
1) TO HAVE A NETWORK OF SPOTTERS IN PLACE TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER
2) TO ACTIVATE THIS NETWORK AS NEEDED
3) TO COORDINATE REPORTS FROM THE SPOTTERS IN A PROFESSIONAL MANNER
4) TO RELAY THESE REPORTS TO THE NWS 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. Others may have begun to activate the net.
If you are hearing reports on the repeater that meet the criteria set by the NWS.
Request by EMA or other county official
Please note: The need for activation occurs when only one of these criteria are met.
CRITERIA FOR REPORTING
WIND GUSTS (ESTIMATED OR MEASURED 45 MPH OR MORE)
WIND DAMAGE (TO LIMBS, TREES, ROOFS, ETC.)
HAIL (WITH DIAMETER OF LARGEST STONES)
FLOODING (BASEMENTS, EXTENSIVE STREET FLOODING, SMALL STREAMS)
HEAVY RAIN (0.75 INCHES OR GREATER IN 1 HOUR OR LESS OR 3 INCHES IN ANY TIME FRAME LESS THAN 24 HOURS)
CONTINUOUS LIGHTNING FIRE/DAMAGE CAUSED BY LIGHTNING
ANY DEATH OR INJURY DUE TO ANY OF THE ABOVE
Remember to always give the three most important parts of a report
TIME - TIME OF OCCURRENCE
EVENT - HAIL, TORNADO, FUNNEL CLOUD, ETC.
LOCATION - COUNTY AND DIRECTION/DISTANCE FROM NEAREST TOWN
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 to you. This is when your main link to the NWS is
via the 800 Severe Weather Hotline. One person, often the Net Control
Station, should be delegated to using the HOTLINE to relay severe
weather reports. This will avoid duplication and keep the 800
lines free. Whenever calling the Severe Weather Hotline identify
yourself as a SKYWARN member in Allegheny County.
The radio operator at the NWS can provide
information on the current watch/warning status for your county
and a brief radar synopsis. It is up to the net control operator to
determine what level of net activation is required given certain
circumstances. The degree needed varies, but could be effectively
arranged in a four-tier system.
Net activation to STANDBY
When used: When a Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been issued,
but no weather activity is occurring in the area. Note the
expiration 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
When used: Used during ALL Tornado Watches and during Severe Thunderstorm Watches when active weather is occurring.
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 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
When 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
When used: If a TORNADO WARNING has been issued for your county.
Net Control Station takes total control of frequency. Net
Control requests tornado, funnel cloud and wall cloud reports. If
there are no tornadic reports, Net Contol requests reports meeting the
above criteria. Stations without one of the above reports should
maintain radio silence. Net control will relay Tornado Warning
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.
More details concerning the changes will be available during the
Allegheny County Skywarn Nets on the first and third Wednesdays
at 8:30 PM on the 147.09 repeater through the winter and spring.
I will keep you up-to-date with the pluses and minuses of the new
operations. Granted, what works well for one county might not for
another. Many counties conduct two-meter radio Skywarn nets. If a
County EC/AEC would like to share information in future newsletters on
how they conduct their nets, let me know.
If you have any questions about the NWS SKYWARN program, don't hesitate to contact us.
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
corrections, ideas or questions can be emailed