Local Skywarn Activity
NOTICE, posted 22 April 2009
According to an article in The Greenfield Recorder of 22 April 2009, p C1, the National Weather Service needs weather spotters in Franklin County. It will be conducting a severe weather spotter training session on May 14 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Rowe Elementary School at 86 Pond Road.
The training session, which is part of the NWS SKYWARN program, includes a presentation that discusses the development of thunderstorms, the criteria for "severe" thunderstorms as well as the cloud features associated with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Additional information will be presented about winter storms and how to take proper snow measurements.
According to Bill Babcock, SKYWARN program leader, there is a need for more weather spotters within Franklin County. "It is very important that we get more weather spotters from the Franklin County area because while we have great equipment that gets the job done, it still runs up against the law of physics," Babcock said. "The storms that we get in New England are multifaceted storms so it is important to have trained weather spotters on the scene reporting whether or not they are receiving rain, snow, freezing rain or ice."
On Dec. 11, 2008, the NWS received phone calls from trained volunteer weather spotters regarding the ice storm that devastated the area. "A weather spotter in Ashfield called to report that there was an accumulation of a half-inch of ice," Babcock said. "We got another call from a weather spotter in Sunderland who reported that they received l.86 inches of rain. Both of these individuals helped contribute to public safety by reporting what was happening around them." For more on this storm, see Emergencies! page.
He added that there aren't any trained spotters in Heath, a town where regular communications were severed by the storm in December. It was a ham radio operator who alerted FCARC members that the town needed help.
Call (508) 823-1900 during normal business hours if you have questions.
Usually the National Weather Service will notify Skywarn liaison Jim,
N1VMH, ahead of time to let him know that severe weather is
coming. Jim will let various people know that a storm is coming by the
various repeaters in the area.
Everybody in Franklin County would listen to the 146.985 repeater.
Other repeaters involved are the 146.940 Mt. Tom repeater, and the
146.910 Mt. Greylock repeater. Those are the main ones to listen to
when severe weather strikes. In addition to these repeaters, we can
use any one of the KD1XP repeaters to relay information back to Jim,
N1VMH. These repeaters are useful because there is so much activity
going on at once that these repeaters are monitored by Jim N1VMH and
there is not as much traffic on them. That way we can get the
information the the NWS in Tauton, Ma ASAP.
Any weather is important and can be reported when there is an
informal net going on. However, when really severe weather happens, it
is good to stick to only the important information. That way the major
stuff gets priority over the minor stuff. Important information
includes winds in excess of 45 miles per hour, flooding, dime size
hail, funnel clouds, and damage caused by lightning.
What is Skywarn?
Skywarn is the National Weather Service (NWS) program of trained
volunteer severe weather spotters. Skywarn volunteers support their
local community and government by providing the NWS with timely and
accurate severe weather reports. These reports, when integrated with
modern NWS technology, are used to inform communities of the proper
actions to take as severe weather threatens. Skywarn, formed in the
early 1970's, has historically provided critical severe weather
information to the NWS in time to get the appropriate warnings issued
. Thus the key focus of the Skywarn program is to save lives and
property through the use of the observations and reports of trained
volunteers. (Gropper, 1993)
Despite the elaborate radar and forecasting equipment at the National
Weather Service, they are only able to determine the potential for
severe weather. They rely on reports from the public and law
enforcement personnel to locate actual severe weather.
Accurate and reliable information from the general public is difficult
to obtain. Severe weather is complicated and confusing. The NWS has
found that regular training of weather spotters improves the quality
of information. The National Weather Service (NWS) collaborates with
Amateur Radio organizations and others to put together training
programs. The NWS brings its weather knowledge, the Amateur Radio
Service brings its expertise in emergency communications, and together
they work with local government and the Red Cross.
Amateur Radio operators' participation in the Skywarn program is
formally acknowledged and encouraged in a Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) between the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) and the NWS. This
agreement indicates the ARRL will encourage its local volunteer groups
operating as the Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) to provide
the NWS with spotters and communicators as requested by the NWS during
times of severe weather. (Gropper, 1993)
Many civil disasters are the direct result of severe weather and/or
are exacerbated by severe weather. Accordingly, the NWS may utilize
the Skywarn Amateur Radio operators not only to obtain and disseminate
severe weather observations and warnings, but may also use them to
maintain close coordination with the Red Cross and Emergency Managers
from local government entities under ARES or Radio Amateur Civil
Emergency Service (RACES)(Gropper, 1993). RACES is organization of
volunteer Amateur Radio operators trained in emergency communications
and severe weather spotting. Authorized and regulated by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), RACES provides essential
communications and warning links for state and local governments
during emergencies. The importance of this additional role for Skywarn
was demonstrated during the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in August of
Trained Skywarn observers provide the Weather Service with accurate,
and timely reports from radio equipped cars and homes. The NWS is
most interested in severe weather reports. Severe weather includes
flash flooding, hail, damaging winds, wall clouds (the area of a
thunderstorm where a tornado could form) and tornado funnels. If the
NWS confirms severe weather with radar and other available
information, it then notifies local authorities who then can activate
Civil Defense sirens. The news media receives notification so they can
make reports on local broadcast stations.
Skywarn volunteers donate thousands of hours and the use of their own
personal radio equipment and vehicles to give their communities
advanced warning of life threatening weather. Since the NWS instituted
the Skywarn Program, there has been a significant decrease in the
death rate due to tornadoes and other severe weather.
Many VUSIT members are active Northern Indiana Skywarn Members, and we
hope this cooperation between VUSIT and Skywarn will continue in the
Reference: Gropper, Daniel R. Skywarn Net Control Operations Manual,
Washington, DC, 1993.