Skywarn Severe Weather Reporting Guide

Use the information below as a guide

This is the minimum criteria to send to the NWS during any communications. In some cases, the meteorologists and radio operator will want a report below severe criteria: 

Great Scenario
: "Radar indicates you should have rotation in the cell you are watching!"
: Will keep an eye on that area! Should I change location for safety or a better vantage point?"

Good scenario
: The radios are quiet and you are bored. You want to give a report the worst of the storm likely moved on.
NWS to Spotter: Do you have a report? It is sprinkling lightly. What is your response?
Spotter: "No report at this time."
Keep ALL reports simple, short, direct and if nothing happening, let the NWS team work on the areas of concern.

 Spotter: "I have light rain a few small branches down and lightning off in the distance." Seconds wasted.

Sometimes, rarely the NWS will ask for conditions at your location no matter how light or heavy it may be. Then you would give them the bad report, below criteria information. Otherwise, please keep the report nearing or at severe criteria!

If you do not know how to call the nearest weather service office, call 9-1-1 only if reporting catastrophic damage is approaching with details and they will pass the information to the NWS for the affected area.

You need to be familiar with the area and know your directions; which direction is North, and how to escape in case one way of getting out of a flooded, damage or impending danger area cut off. Always travel in the direction 90 degrees from an approaching funnel or tornado. Safety is our first practice, and the best picture is not worth the loss of life.
Special Note: 
Keep radio transmissions short, direct and leave any frequencies actively in use for weather as chatter free as possible.
Wind Speed
Winds in excess of 58mph - tree limbs are usually the approximate size of your wrist on the ground
25-31 mph Large branches in motion;
whistling heard in telephone wires
32-38 mph Whole trees in motion;
inconvenience felt walking against the wind.
39-54 mph Twigs break off trees;
wind generally impedes progress
55-72 mph Damage to chimneys and TV antennas;
pushes over shallow rooted trees
73-112 mph Peels surfaces off roofs; windows broken;
light mobile homes pushed or overturned;
moving cars pushed off road
113-157 mph Roofs torn off houses;
cars lifted off ground
Estimated rainfall that exceeds 2" per hour 
How to observe and estimate heavy rainfall - streets are water curb to curb, water pooling on highways causing hydroplaning, heavy run-off from fields, poor visibility for 20-30 minutes even at home, creeks and streams and even rivers rising fast and moving rapidly. When it rains this hard remember one thing. If you can't see the road, don't keep driving; STOP! You might save your life. Heavy rains of this magnitude can and do wash out or wash under roads, bridges, move boulders into streets. Turn Around! Don't Drown!
1" or quarter sized, use largest hail you have observed.
1/4" Pea Size
3/4" Dime Size
7/8" Nickel Size
1" (Severe Criteria)* Quarter Size
1 1/4" Half Dollar Size
1 1/2" Walnut or Ping Pong Ball Size
1 3/4" Golf Ball Size
2" Hen Egg Size
2 1/2" Tennis Ball Size
2 3/4" Baseball Size
3" Teacup Size
4" Grapefruit Size
4 1/2" Softball Size
A tornado is a violent column of air rotating from the base of the clouds and touching the ground. You should be able to see debris at the ground level. This often is occuring with a lowering of a funnel from a wall cloud. Observe for rotation. Remain a safe distance away. Please give the following in your report immediately - slowly, methodically, and brief as possible:
  • Your location - use cross roads or named roads, approx distance and direction from any town; other identifiers are grain elevators 
  • Time of observation
  • Your distance and direction from the observed report
  • Define the tornado - "is it a rope, classic or wedge"
  • Direction the tornado is moving, approximate
    forward speed
Rivers, creeks and streams over their banks, water over roads
Winter Weather Reporting is Critical 
Observations are not limited to summer storms only. 
The NWS is especially interested in reports when snow is falling and radar echoes are not always able to detect the amount of snowfall and conditions on the ground. Please pass on the following information to your weather service office
Sleet, ice
Snow fall on ground too warm to retain snow will allow accumulation of ice on power lines, trees, cars and elevated roads and bridges.
Snow-packed, slush
Report observations of roads that are snow packed and slushy. These can become dangerous conditions if the temperature falls even a few degrees.
Snow fall
Meausrements in excess of 2". Wind can cause reduced visibility and drifting. Report measurements to nearest 1/10"