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What is SKYWARN?

SKYWARN frequencies that our counties use during severe weather events.

 

More on amateur radio SKYWARN NET for Allegheny County...

 An effective SKYWARN net usually follows some form of guide or outline. This is especially helpful  in making it through the rougher times that occasionally occur. Usually it is in these tough times  that your communications to the NWS have the utmost value.

 Remember, SKYWARN is NOT a club. By putting aside any differences that do not support the  goals of SKYWARN, you'll find your SKYWARN net to be at its most effective level.

 A great amount of the work is done by the amateur radio community in fulfilling the goals of  SKYWARN. The NWS appreciates your assistance. The Pittsburgh National Weather Service office  has over 2000 trained spotters in our 36 county warning area that covers four states. We rely on  you in assisting in goals number 2, 3 and 4.

 

THE GOALS OF AMATEUR RADIO SKYWARN

 1) TO HAVE A NETWORK OF SPOTTERS IN PLACE TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER

 2) TO ACTIVATE THIS NETWORK AS NEEDED

 3) TO COORDINATE REPORTS FROM THE SPOTTERS IN A PROFESSIONAL MANNER

 4) TO RELAY THESE REPORTS TO THE NWS IN A TIMELY MANNER


ACTIVATING THE NETWORK

 Methods of initial awareness of severe weather and the need to activate the network:

  • Receive a call from the NWS requesting reports

  • NOAA Weather Radio, local TV or radio, if your county is under a Severe Thunderstorm/Flash Flood/or Tornado Warning, there is no doubt that the NWS needs your reports.

  • NWS Pagers

  • Tune to your local repeater, where SKYWARN nets are held. Others may have begun to activate the net.

  • If you are hearing reports on the repeater that meet the criteria set by the NWS.

  • Request by EMA or other county official

 Please note: The need for activation occurs when only one of these criteria are met.


CRITERIA FOR REPORTING

  • TORNADOS

  • FUNNEL CLOUDS

  • WALL CLOUDS

  • ROTATING THUNDERSTORMS

  • WIND GUSTS (ESTIMATED OR MEASURED 45 MPH OR MORE)

  • WIND DAMAGE (TO LIMBS, TREES, ROOFS, ETC.)

  • HAIL (WITH DIAMETER OF LARGEST STONES)

  • FLOODING (BASEMENTS, EXTENSIVE STREET FLOODING, SMALL STREAMS)

  • HEAVY RAIN (0.75 INCHES OR GREATER IN 1 HOUR OR LESS OR 3 INCHES IN ANY TIME FRAME LESS THAN 24 HOURS)

  • CONTINUOUS LIGHTNING FIRE/DAMAGE CAUSED BY LIGHTNING

  • ANY DEATH OR INJURY DUE TO ANY OF THE ABOVE

 

 Remember to always give the three most important parts of a report

  1. TIME - TIME OF OCCURRENCE

  2. EVENT - HAIL, TORNADO, FUNNEL CLOUD, ETC.

  3. LOCATION - COUNTY AND DIRECTION/DISTANCE FROM NEAREST TOWN

 Often severe storms strike quickly and are isolated in our area. There will be times when there is  no radio operator at the NWS to make direct contacts to you. This is when your main link to the  NWS is via the 800 Severe Weather Hotline. One person, often the Net Control Station, should be  delegated to using the HOTLINE to relay severe weather reports. This will avoid duplication and  keep the 800 lines free. Whenever calling the Severe Weather Hotline identify yourself as a  SKYWARN member in Allegheny County.

 The radio operator at the NWS can provide information on the current watch/warning status for  your county and a brief radar synopsis. It is up to the net control operator to determine what level of  net activation is required given certain circumstances. The degree needed varies, but could be  effectively arranged in a four-tier system.


Net activation to STANDBY

 When used: When a Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been issued, but no weather activity is  occurring in the area. Note the expiration time of the watch.

 A net control station will then be established and take and log check-ins. Now is the best time to  establish where potential observers are located for the upcoming event, not when the severe  weather is hitting. The net control station will also relay watch information frequently. Normal use  of the repeater will continue, however, please leave a pause between transmissions should net  control need to break in to take the net to a higher level.

 As the storms approach your area, the net may need to be fully activated. There are three levels of  full activation.


Net Activation to CONDITION GREEN

 When used: Used during ALL Tornado Watches and during Severe Thunderstorm Watches when  active weather is occurring.

 Nets for Flood/Flash Flood Watches are normally not required. There may be exceptions when the  NWS would request additional spotter reports, ex. remnants of a tropical storm moving through the  area.

 The first priority, during condition green, would be taking and relaying weather reports to the NWS.  Second would be check-ins. The Net Control Station takes control of frequency and gives frequent  updates on net status and weather watches. Prepare for further upgrade as storms approach or if  severe weather reports begin coming in.


Net Activation to CONDITION YELLOW

 When used: If a SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING and/or FLASH FLOOD WARNING has  been issued for your county.

 Priority must be given to collecting and relaying weather reports, No check-ins or checkouts at this  time. Net Contol will announce warning information frequently. Only reports meeting the criteria  mentioned earlier should be requested. "It's not raining here" reports are not needed, unless  requested.


Net Activation to CONDITION RED

 When used: If a TORNADO WARNING has been issued for your county.

 Net Control Station takes total control of frequency. Net Control requests tornado, funnel cloud and  wall cloud reports. If there are no tornadic reports, Net Contol requests reports meeting the above  criteria. Stations without one of the above reports should maintain radio silence. Net control will  relay Tornado Warning information frequently.

 Condition RED events are rare. However, real emergency organization in these instances is what  will make the NWS, trained spotters and all licensed amateurs involved with ARES fulfill their  missions and shine.


 Often, if one waits until a warning is issued, it is too late to organize spotters, collect reports and  relay them to the NWS in a timely manner. Spotters are also requested to check-in/check-out in  Stand-by and Condition Green. This will help net control know where available spotters are before  the storm moves through the county.

 More details concerning the changes will be available during the Allegheny County Skywarn Nets  on the first and third Wednesdays at 8:30 PM on the 147.09 repeater through the winter and  spring. I will keep you up-to-date with the pluses and minuses of the new operations. Granted,  what works well for one county might not for another. Many counties conduct two-meter radio  Skywarn nets. If a County EC/AEC would like to share information in future newsletters on how  they conduct their nets, let me know.

 If you have any questions about the NWS SKYWARN program, don't hesitate to contact us.

 Administrative: (412) 262-1591

 Weather recording: (412) 262-2170

 River information: (412) 262-5290

or write:

National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office Pittsburgh
192 Shafer Road
Moon Township, PA 15108


Fred McMullen, Warning Coordination Meteorologist/SKYWARN Director


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National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office Pittsburgh
192 Shafer Road
Moon Township, PA 15108
Main Office (412) 262-1591
Recording (412) 262-2170
Webmaster's Email: pit-comments@noaa.gov
Page last modified: Mar 15, 2014 6:43PM
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