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Union County Skywarn

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In the North Carolina section, many of the voluntary emergency services provided by amateur operators fall under the “ARES umbrella” from an organizational viewpoint. SKYWARN is one such service that is an integral component of service for the National Weather Service during times of severe weather. Amateur Radio operators serve as severe weather spotters to relay vital, live data to the weather service office in Greenville, SC (GSP) via radio.



Overview

A SKYWARN activation can occur at any time when a need exists to report severe weather data to the National Weather Service. An activation will occur at the discretion of the District SKYWARN Emergency Coordinator, a SKYWARN Net Control Station, any trained SKYWARN weather spotter who has witnessed severe weather or at the request of the National Weather Service.

The purpose of the SKYWARN net is report live, accurate SEVERE weather data to the National Weather Service (NWS). SKYWARN spotters are requested to use their best judgment when gathering this data . DO NOT put yourself in harm’s way to perform these duties. When trapped in a severe weather situation, take cover or other precautionary measures immediately to alleviate yourself from potential danger.                                                                                         
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A spotter may register with the National Weather
Service once they have completed training and are willing to serve their community in this fashion. Spotters establish a relationship with NWS by attending the Basic and/or Advanced Spotter training courses offered in their regional area once every 3 years. After completion of training, the NWS will record the spotter’s contact information and may periodically call upon the spotter to report severe weather data from their area. Without renewing these courses on the 3 year cycle, their contact information is removed from the NWS spotter database.

Please note the purpose of SKYWARN is to TRACK severe weather so NWS can forecast warnings to the general public, NOT to deal with the aftermath that may be caused by severe weather. Immediately after severe weather has affected an area, ARES may be called upon to provide emergency communications for local government and/or disaster relief agencies. This instant change of mission is why ARES and SKYWARN are tightly coupled. After severe weather has occurred, ARES will take over as the primary Amateur Radio emergency communications network. Since both organizations use the same resources (operators and equipment) who are already in place, it makes sense for them to work together proactively during an emergency. They do this by having operators who are cross-trained with the different skill sets. This allow the deployed operators to “switch hats” and continue assisting in an expedient manner.

The Charlotte Regional Skywarn District Coordinatore is: Chris Gay / N1CRG. The SKYWARN DC works closely with ARES EC(s) in their district to coordinate and focus efforts of SKYWARN and ARES. Both the SKYWARN and an ARES EC roles are appointed ARRL positions who are directed by the Section Emergency Coordinator (or District Emergency Coordinators, if applicable).


SKYWARN Reporting Procedures


Below is the basic information that ARES members of Union County will need to know to participate effectively in a SKYWARN activation.

1. Monitor NOAA Weather Radio as often as possible during times when severe weather threatens the Mecklenburg County area or surrounding areas. WXL70 is the local broadcast station that services our area from atop Spencer Mountain near Gastonia, NC. (The transmitter operates on 162.475Mhz.). NWS will often alert spotters with special announcements via this mechanism.

2. For SKYWARN activation, monitor the 145.230 MHz (-600Khz) tone 118.8 Hz. W4BFB repeater.  NWS in the GSP office actively monitors this repeater and has capability to communicate to our nets from their office. Many of the forecasters for our service area are licensed amateurs.

3. ONLY report the following severe weather data to a SKYWARN net or NWS representative, unless otherwise instructed to do so. This listing comes form the spotter training courses and constitutes severe weather data qualifications per the NWS:

 DIME-SIZED HAIL (3/4 inch)

 58 MPH WINDS (50 KNOTS) OR ANY KIND OF DAMAGE

 RAIN OR FLOODING (at rates of one inch per hour OR 2.5 inches per 3 hours)

 TORNADOES, FUNNEL CLOUDS OR ROTATING WALL CLOUDS (look for ROTATION)

NOTE: Please don’t report criteria that does not meet the above-mentioned descriptions. By doing so, you are slowing down the flow of valid information and wasting valuable time for monitoring forecasters. This is mentioned not to be insensitive, but to remind spotters that severe weather can be a matter of life and death. Time is of the essence here. Monitoring forecasters ONLY need severe weather data to forecast the immediate warnings. Other information distracts them from doing their job at the office (i.e., monitoring radar, making predictions etc.). This is a common problem on many SKYWARN nets, so let’s do our part to help out.


In Closing

Many of the NWS spotter trainers have made comments that spotters are the “NWS’s eyes and ears on the ground”. Technology has its limitations when it comes to forecasting warnings for severe data, and nothing can beat an “on scene report”. As SKYWARN spotters it is our responsibility to be capable of providing NWS with useful and accurate data. This allows NWS to make better forecasts, get realistic warnings out quicker and ultimately save lives.
The best way to prepare for SKYWARN participation is to monitor weather conditions, participate in SKYWARN nets and take spotter training when it’s offered in your local area. This also allows you to maintain your “spotter status” in the National Weather Service Spotter database.






TO REPORT TO THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
BY NON RADIO MEANS, CLICK ON THE SIGNIFICANT
WEATHER REPORT FORM BELOW


( Please be advised the link above for reporting is not Real Time Report link )







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