SN 2021 Spotter Network Newsletter

John Wetter

SN President
Staff member
Dec 11, 2005
Maple Grove, MN
You can read the newsletter via our emailed post as well available here.

Hello Everyone,
The 2021 severe weather season is already well under way and looks ready to start ramping up shortly. We’d like to take a few minutes of your time to talk about Spotter Network! There is a lot of information in this letter, and as we only send one newsletter a year, we ask that you please read this newsletter in its entirety.

Spotter Network (SN) is an organization of over 78,000 members strong. Your reports to the NWS continue to help the warning process by providing real-time information from the field.
We thank you for your continued contributions!

Here are a few stats you might find interesting from 2020:
SN Members Submitted 3,626 reports:
198 Tornado reports.
185 funnel cloud reports.
352 wall cloud reports.
1,070 hail reports.
423 wind reports.
255 flood/flash flood reports.

2020 report counts were down about 14% over 2019, likely explained by the considerably fewer chasers taking to the roads due to the pandemic. Of all the report types though, hail reports were almost exactly the same as in 2019, likely speaking to the point that more people report hail at or near their homes.

For 2021, we’re making one important change to the way reports are reviewed. In the past, we’ve used a “Perfect, Acceptable, Bad” scale for reviewing reports. We’ve found that at times, the judgement call of ‘perfect’ is a bit too open to interpretation. Starting on June 1, we will be changing the review options to a stoplight approach of “Good, Acceptable/Could be better, Bad” and will be color coded as green, yellow, red. Also new in 2021 is all reports are now assumed to be current. The ability to change the time on a report submission has been removed to help with clarity.

All historical reports for the three categories will be ported into the new categories so please do not be alarmed if your old ‘acceptable’ or ‘green’ reports suddenly become yellow.

Other reminders:
  • Only make reports for the listed report types. Note that estimated winds & non-rotating wall clouds were removed and the damage category added in 2020.
  • Please review your contact information on your account profile to make sure it is current. Local NWS offices often use this information to get in contact with spotters during or after an event to help understand what happened. We’ve heard from offices that some of this information appears to be out of date.
  • Spotters must at least have a phone number for their NWS/Emergency Management contact information. Accounts without a current phone number will be disabled. You have an option of including as much or as little information as you’d like in your public profile, but for integrity of reports, you are required to have a current phone number in your private information. Access to this information is thoroughly vetted.
  • Real Names policy. Your display name must be your real name, or name you are commonly identified with and nothing more.
  • Calling 911 is the first part of rendering aid and should be the first critical life saving action spotters take when coming upon devastation, injuries, or accidents.
  • Images are helpful. While we are still evaluating methods to safely and securely work with images at Spotter Network, if you are on Twitter, please be sure to tag the local NWS office with photos, or add a hashtag for the state, eg. #kswx for Kansas weather.

What Makes a Good Report? From time to time we get asked how can a report be made better? Maybe it’s from comments in a review, or maybe it’s on social media. One area we’ve seen particularly troublesome is with flooding and flash flooding and when to report what. Below is information that should be included in every report:
  • Tornado: Report direction of the tornado from your location. Consider including tornado shape, eg. elephant trunk, stovepipe, etc. This article on tornado types and a caution about using the term wedge may be helpful. Do not include words like ‘large’, ‘small’, etc. as those are interpreted differently by everyone.
  • Rotating Wall Cloud: Report direction of the wall cloud from your location. Recall that we only accept rotating wall clouds (and not non-rotating wall clouds).
  • Funnel Cloud: Report direction of the funnel cloud from your location.
  • Hail: Include how it was measured if possible.
  • Wind: Include how it was measured (eg. rooftop anemometer, home weather station, handheld anemometer, etc.). Reminder: we do not accept estimated wind speeds! Instead report the damage that occurred.
  • Damage: Include tree/branch diameter as well as any other information you can such as a single tree down, dozens of trees down, etc. For structural damage be as specific as possible (eg. missing shingles, garage door blown in, etc.)
  • Flash Flooding: Characterized by swiftly flowing water several inches deep. Be as specific as possible about the scale of the flooding; depth of the water should be reported whenever possible.
  • Flooding: An inundation of a normally dry area by rising water. This should only be reported when significant flooding occurs in an area; depth of the water should be reported whenever possible.
Report what you see, not what you think you see! It’s okay to be unsure, but be sure to describe what you are seeing in as much detail as possible.

Report Reviews & Feedback. Nearly all reports are reviewed. Spotter Network has a dedicated team of report reviewers from a wide variety of backgrounds that review reports to ensure integrity of the system. In 2020, over 81,000 reviews of reports were made, an increase of nearly 20,000. To ensure an active feedback loop. If you submit a report you will receive a weekly email with the reviews for your report which is intended to help you grow as a spotter. Spotter Network reserves the right to remove any member if they are found to be acting in a grossly irresponsible manner. This has only been done a couple of times but we just want to remind you that we do reserve this right. This might involve very bad reports being submitted, unsafe field tactics, or at the request of our National Weather Service partners.

Please remember to always be safe, use ACES, and report severe weather via SN! Thanks to many integrators out there, several apps now allow you to submit reports over many different platforms (see client list on our web site). Pick what works best for you, good luck and be safe out there!

Find yourself needing help with something regarding Spotter Network? All support for SN is handled over on While you’re there, take a look at the rest of the forum, as StormTrack continues to be a great source of information and conversation for spotters and chasers for over 40 years!

SpotterNetwork and this newsletter would not be possible without the fantastic help from our friends over at AllisonHouse. Please thank them!

SpotterNetwork, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit based in Minnesota. If you’d like to help us defer the costs of running the network, please consider a donation. No one at SN is paid, we are a volunteer force and thank you for considering a contribution.