Southeast Missouri Skywarn

The effects of severe weather are felt every year by many Americans. To obtain critical weather information, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, established Skywarn® with partner organizations. Skywarn® is a volunteer program with nearly 290,000 trained severe weather spotters. These volunteers help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service. Although Skywarn® spotters provide essential information for all types of weather hazards, the main responsibility of a Skywarn® spotter is to identify and describe severe local storms. In the average year, 10,000 severe thunderstorms, 5,000 floods and more than 1,000 tornadoes occur across the United States. These events threatened lives and property. Since the program started in the 1970s, the information provided by Skywarn® spotters, coupled with Doppler radar technology, improved satellite and other data, has enabled NWS to issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods.

Skywarn® storm spotters are part of the ranks of citizens who form the Nation’s first line of defense against severe weather. There can be no finer reward than to know that their efforts have given communities the precious gift of time–seconds and minutes that can help save lives. While the main role of a storm spotter is to be their community’s first line of defense against dangerous storms, they also provide important information to NWS warning forecasters who make critical warning decisions. Storm spotters play a critical role because they can see things that radar and other technological tools cannot, and this ground truth is critical in helping the NWS perform our primary mission, to save lives and property.  (NWS)

In the paragraph above the NWS mentions spotters seeing what the radar cannot. Paducah is the closest doppler radar to Cape Girardeau. Doppler radar has a minimum 0.5° upward tilt. As the crow flies, the distance between Cape Girardeau and Paducah is 46 miles. With a 0.5° tilt, the lowest the radar could see would be about 1,100 feet. There are some other factors such as elevation at point A and B and in between, but you can see there’s a gap where the NWS is blind as to what’s happening closer to the ground. The further away from the radar the bigger this gap becomes.

It’s important to know which NWS office covers your county when signing up for Spotter Training classes. You can attend any Spotter Training course offered by the NWS, but it’s best to find one for your county as your NWS office might have special requirements for reporting along with unlisted phone numbers. SEMO is covered by NWS offices in Paducah, St Louis, Springfield and Memphis.

NWS Spotter Training Classes

Many spotter networks are made up of dedicated amateur radio operators who use radio to coordinate with their local network and to relay reports to the NWS. Below is a list of known amateur radio Skywarn® networks active during severe weather.

LocationFrequencyPL TonesEchoLink 
Cape Girardeau146.685 MHz100.0 Hz
Southwest MO145.490 MHz136.5 HzN0NWS-R
St. Louis County147.360 MHz

Southwest Missouri Regional Skywarn is a very impressive Skywarn system covering a HUGE portion of southwest Missouri. Over 10 repeaters are linked during severe weather. Weather spotters on the ground are feeding weather information back to the National Weather Service. This information is extremely helpful in issuing severe warnings. I wish southeast Missouri had a similar system in place.

Skywarn® and the Skywarn® logo are registered trademarks of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, used with permission.