Chester County SKYWARN

The SKYWARN program was developed in the early 1970s to promote a cooperative effort between the National Weather Service and communities. The program is focused on the storm spotter, a trained individual who reports wind gusts, hail size, rainfall, and cloud formations that could signal a developing tornado or provide “ground truth” where other observations are lacking. Another part of SKYWARN is distributing National Weather Service information.

The National Weather Service or the emergency management agency within the community organizes and trains spotters, and handles the distribution of NWS watches and warnings. In Chester County, Pennsylvania, the NWS office in Mt. Holly, New Jersey together with the Chester County Department of Emergency Services take the lead. Because of the utility of amateur radio in these tasks (often under abnormal conditions) many spotters are also amateur radio operators. In Chester County, most trained spotters are also CCAR members. CCAR considers SKYWARN support to be an important function. However, an amateur radio license is not required to be a SKYWARN spotter.

SKYWARN spotters are not by definition “Storm Chasers”. While their functions and methods are similar, the spotter stays close to home and usually has ties to a local agency. Storm chasers often cover hundreds of miles a day. The term Storm Chaser covers a wide variety of people. Some are meteorologists doing specific research or are gathering basic information (like video) for training and comparison to radar data. Others chase storms to provide live information for the media, and others simply do it for the thrill. Storm Spotting and Storm Chasing is dangerous and should not be done without proper training, experience and equipment.

The National Weather Service Forecast Office at Mt. Holly, NJ conducts spotter training classes in our area. These sessions are generally open to the public, but many hosts require advance registration because of space limitations. Additional information can be found at CCAR normally hosts a SKYWARN training session each year, but this training can be completed at any scheduled session. The current training schedule is published here:

CCAR members who complete SKYWARN training are eligible to receive a NOAA Weather Radio issued by the Chester County Department of Emergency Services. This is a valuable benefit to CCAR members. Also, depending upon location and an agreement with the County, these members have the opportunity to host Chester County-owned weather instruments on their property.