Sign up to be a Chicago Storm Spotter
Real-time reports are critical in issuing warnings and saving lives. Spotters are provide this real-time ground-truth of local conditions -- such as hail size, wind speed, tornado development, and local damage -- to help warn the public. Even as new technology allows the National Weather Service to issue warnings with greater lead time, spotters still serve as a critical link between radar indications of severe weather and what's happening on the ground.
Virtually every community has some form of spotter network. Often, local fire and police personnel are trained to observe and report severe weather, partly due to their extensive radio communication and 24-hour operations. Citizens may also be an active part of the spotter network, some with an avid interest in the weather and many without. Some spotters are amateur radio operators. All share a sense of responsibility to their neighbors.
SKYWARN is a volunteer program sponsored by the National Weather Service with between 350,000 and 400,000 trained severe weather spotters. The volunteers attend regular training and then scan the skies of their communities identifying and reporting critical storm information. These volunteers are typically trained by NWS forecasters to be the eyes and ears for their communities.
If you are interested in becoming a storm spotter for the National Weather Service in the Chicago area, three "Chicago Storm Spotter" training webinars are offered this spring from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23; Monday, March 1; or Wednesday, March 10.
All "Chicago Storm Spotter" training will be conducted via webinar this year. The webinars will cover severe weather hazards including thunderstorms and tornadoes. This includes safety concerns, planning for and anticipating severe thunderstorms, general storm structure and movement, and identification of important storm features.
All sessions last about 2 hours. They are free and open to the public.
Classes are appropriate for all ages. Ages 10 and up will likely get the most out of the training.
Preregistration is required to access the webinars. To register, visit www.weather.gov/lot/spotter_talk.
The National Weather Service Chicago requires that spotters retrain every two years to remain active.