National Weather Service, NOAA

Pittsburgh, PA

Spring/Summer 2006

SKYWARN Classes A Success!

The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh held nearly 30 SKYWARN Training Sessions in 21 counties across our County Warning Area. The attendance for each class was excellent and we are happy to have such a large number of new spotters in our area. If you attended one of the recent SKYWARN sessions and have not yet received your card, we ask that you please wait just a little longer. Unfortunately, due to the lack of manpower, we are slightly delayed in processing all applications. Even if you haven’t received your card, you may still report severe weather to us using the SKYWARN telephone number. Just let the forecaster know which SKYWARN class you attended when giving your report! Thank you for your patience!!!

Pittsburgh Climate through July

At the Pittsburgh International airport from January 1st to July 31st, the temperature has averaged 1.4 degrees above normal, mainly due to the month of January being 10.6 degrees above normal. Precipitation at the airport was 1.32 inches below normal for the year so far, however many parts of Southeast Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, Northern West Virginia and Garrett county Maryland have received much higher amounts of rain than what was recorded at the airport. The 90 day outlook through October for the region calls for near normal conditions for temperature and precipitation.

There have been no confirmed tornadoes in the Pittsburgh WFO County Warning Area so far this year.

There have been over 300 severe weather events, including wind damage, large hail, and flash flooding so far this severe weather season..

HazCollect Arrives in Our Region

The National Weather Service is developing the All-Hazards Emergency Message Collection System, HazCollect, to collect and efficiently distribute non-weather emergency messages (NWEM). NWEMs, commonly known as Civil Emergency Messages (CEMs), will be sent through the NWS dissemination infrastructure, other national systems, and to the Emergency Alert System (EAS). [Examples of the type of messages that could be issued include a hazardous materials incident, AMBER alert, evacuation notice, or other emergency message.] To originate NWEMs, emergency managers will use the desktop client of FEMA's Disaster Management Interoperability Services (DMIS) or other enabled DMIS-connected emergency management software applications to write and post (send) NWEM text messages. DMIS will then relay the NWEM to the HazCollect server for message authorization and dissemination through DMIS and the NWS dissemination infrastructure (and to many other dissemination services), NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, and the Emergency Alert System. (Source: NWS HazCollect Web Site:, 2006).

Remember What We Want You to Report!

SNOWFALL - After 2 inches of new snow, and then at 4 inches, 6 inches, and every 3 inches thereafter (e.g., 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, etc.)

FREEZING RAIN - As soon as you observe the occurrence of freezing rain or freezing drizzle, especially if it starts to collect on objects. Call again if the glaze/ice accumulation exceeds 1/4 inch

THUNDER SNOW - Location and time of occurrence

WIND SPEEDS - Report wind speeds greater than 40 mph

RAINFALL - Report any rainfall in excess of 3/4 inch in an hour

FUNNEL CLOUD - A "rotating" appendage descending from the base of a cumulonimbus cloud, but not touching the ground. If possible, always look at the area beneath the funnel cloud for flying debris. If flying debris is observed, it is a tornado.

TORNADO - Violently rotating column of air descending from a cumulonimbus cloud and touching the ground. Look for flying debris. If possible, report any injuries or fatalities

HAIL - Report any size hail. Specify the diameter based on the hail scale (coins)

FLOODING - Report any flooding you observe, including basement, road, stream, creek, and ice jam flooding. Report the name of the stream/creek, road number/name (if applicable) and depth

DAMAGE - Report all storm-related damage (large branches, fallen trees, structural damage, flood damage, etc.) Even if it is several days after the event.



E-Spotter Is Here

E-SPOTTER is an Internet based program which allows spotters to send in reports directly to the NWS office. We have activated the program for the NWS Pittsburgh office. If you are a trained SKYWARN spotter for the Pittsburgh NWS office, you can register at . You can then fill out either the Severe Weather Report Form or Winter Weather Report Form online and submit them to us in near real-time. If you remain logged into E-SPOTTER, once we acknowledge your report, you will get an indication that your report has been received on the screen. Please try to concentrate on those reporting items that we stress in the SKYWARN class (also contained in this newsletter). I will be talking more about E-SPOTTER at the SKYWARN classes this spring. When you send us a report via the Internet, we will get an alert at our main computers. However, we will still have to be logged into the Internet as well to read your report. However, there will be times when we cannot respond to your reports immediately because of workload or warning priorities. If you think your report is critical and very time sensitive, call us on the toll-free number. Please do not send an E-SPOTTER report via the Internet and then follow-up with a telephone call. This will actually double our workload.

Some Interesting Lightning Facts

A typical flash of lightning lasts a quarter second and consists of 3-4 individual discharges, known as strokes.

Thunder is the result of rapid heating of the air around a lightning strike. A shock wave is transmitted at an approximate rate of 1 mile every 5 seconds. If you count the number of seconds from flash to boom, and divide this by 5, you can get an approximation on how far the lightning strike was from your location.

Lightning can reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is four times hotter than the surface of the sun!

The average lightning strike is 6 miles long!

Heat lightning is really lightning that is just too far away for you to hear thunder. However, the storm can still be heading your way so take shelter in a sturdy building!

If you would like to learn more about lightning, check out the book All About Lightning by Martin A. Uman (ISBN: 048625237X).



If you're not already a member, consider subscribing to the Yahoo! Group SKYWARN Pittsburgh. It's a great way for

SKYWARNers in the Pittsburgh CWA to stay connected, share information, discuss the weather, share files and pictures, and more! To join, just visit

The creator of the group is Alan Stumpf (KB3DHC), and the moderators are Warning Coordination Meteorologist Rich Kane, and Josh Gelman. Join today! .



A storm which produces large hail (3/4 inch or greater) and/or wind gusts to 58 mph (50 kts) or greater (NOTE: it does not include lightning. All thunderstorms are deadly and dangerous due to lightning).



The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh would like to extend a thank you to all of the amateur radio operators who have recently assisted in the office during severe weather: Alan (KB3DHC), Gorman (N3YQY), Dave (KB3FXI), Jim (N3KJJ), Bob (WC3O), and Josh (KB3GIO). If we forgot anyone thank you too!!!



The National Weather Service would also like to extend a thank you to all of our SKYWARN members. Although technology allows us to survey weather conditions across a very large area, nothing can replace a ground report from you, our dedicated observers! Your reports are critical to our mission: 1) They immediately add credibility to our warnings 2) They alert everyone downstream of the potential for severe weather 3) They help us make decisions on additional warnings, watches and statements 4) They help us verify our warnings 5) They serve as part of the national severe weather archives (National Climatic Data Center) and to build a severe weather climatology. Most importantly, your reports help us save lives and protect property! Often times a single SKYWARN report leads to the issuance of a warning, watch or statement. Keep up the great work, and thank you all for your participation! Remember that safety does come first. Only report severe weather when you can do so safely! Always report severe weather to the SKYWARN Number you were provided during your training. If you are not a SKYWARN Member, you can report severe weather to the National Weather Service through the toll-free public line at 1-877-633-6772.