National Weather Service hosts Skywarn Spotter training


The National Weather Service’s Skywarn Spotters Program uses volunteers on the ground to help describe local weather conditions so it can issue warnings for severe weather events, such as the tornado that ripped through the Dayton area last May. Observer file photo

By Paige Scott

The National Weather Service is holding a Skywarn Spotter training program for interested persons in Butler and Warren County from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 at the Atrium Medical Center.

The Skywarn Spotter program uses volunteers to help report significant weather events. The training program discusses techniques and safety rules for severe weather spotting. After successfully completing the training session, volunteers are able to participate in the program.

The Skywarn Spotter Program began in the 1970s and allowed the National Weather Service to issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods. The spotters can report any kind of hazardous weather, with the main focus on severe local thunderstorms, according to the weather service  

“The National Weather Service created this program because weather radar scans high into the clouds,” said Phillip Johnson, associate director of sports and facility services at Miami University. The further away from the radar, the higher the radar beam goes. At that point, the radar operators are unable to see what is happening at ground level and need “spotters” to identify what’s happening and report back, Johnson said. This helps the weather service in issuing flood, thunderstorm and tornado warnings that can save lives, he said.  

“The storm spotter training is a free training that teaches how to identify and report tornadoes, funnel clouds, high wind damage and severe flooding,” Johnson said. “The more people that are trained, the bigger the network and the better chance that someone will be able to identify and report a weather hazard that can help save lives.”

Miami University received a StormReady certification in 2019. This is a voluntary national program that encourages communities to take a proactive approach to improve local hazardous weather operations by providing clear-cut guidelines for emergency managers. 

Johnson was a storm chaser and trained storm spotter himself. His role in-game operations with Miami Athletics requires the department to be aware of the weather and severe situations that would require them to protect the players on the field and the fans in the stands. He was aware of the NWS StormReady certification for communities and universities and worked with the Miami University Police Department to meet the qualifications for the university’s certification last year. 

The February training session has a capacity of 150 people and will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. You can register online through the Butler County Emergency Management Agency or contact the Butler County main office for more information.