NWSFOs' and chasers/spotters

Hi there,

From the cold and snowy central new york, this is Jeremy.

I read in a publication that many NWS offices in the plains
have shut thier doors to spotters and chasers. Namely for reasons
we all are aware of. My question is, are there offices that still disallow
spotters and chasers visiting on chase days. Also, why especially would
some offices close thier doors to thier own spotters?. I believe I read about this in a couple publications, one of them was Storm Chaser by
Warren Faidley.

Has things eased up abit in recent years with most of the data
that once was only accessible by NWS and TV mets is now on the
net avalible 24/7 365 at a click of a button.

Oh, one more thing. I've been a long time subscriber to the weathertap
service. I got the service because of the delay of data on most sites and only having base reflect .5 and precip total(s) data. With weathertap I get what I believe is the full range of 88-D products with the acception of the higher than 4.0 tilt angle if im not mistaken. Has anyone used or is using weathertap?. any pros and cons???...Would like feed back on this.


Cortland county SKYWARN
Emerald Hose Co.4-member
City of Cortland Fire Department
Cortland, New York, USA
I personally have no experience getting shunned from a NWS office because I have never felt the need to go there for data. I think chasers and spotters get shunned from the NWS offices for a number of reasons, but we all have to remember that they are a forecast office and not a data service provider. Like you said, why even go the NWS for data when there is so much info on the net? The NWS employees have a hard enough job to do on severe weather days, not to mention the times when they have to deal with the severe weather and deal with the public knocking on their door wanting data.

Now to the weathertap discussion. I used to use weathertap a lot but now I exclusively use a radar program called Grlevel3. I'm sure you have heard of it. In my opinion, there is not a radar program out there that can give the consumer what Grlevel3 gives for the price. Check it out if you haven't already.

http://www.grlevelx.com/grlevel3/ click on GrLevel3 setup.exe
It really depends on the office and if they know a chaser/spotter and past experiences with them. I know many of the guys working at Amarillo's office and have even chased with a couple and have never had a problem stopping by to chat etc.. I havent gone to the NWS for data since the mid-90's. the reason we used to go was to garner data (usually in exchange for pizza/drinks)from them but with the advent and expansion of the internet there really is no reason to have to go to the NWS office unless you are a spotter for that office and they have a prep meeting before heading into the field. I drop by to give them video and reports or just to BS on down days or after an event but I dont bother them on busy days. They have a job to do and they dont need chasers hanging over their shoulder or trying to get last minute forecasts or targets.

I have never heard of an offices spotters being locked out since they are their at the request of that office.

Also since 9/11 all NWS offices are locked. you have to be escorted in. This is hugely different than back in the 80's-90's when you could come and go as you please.Not exactly sure they are a huge terrorists target since you can get the same info off the internet but Homeland Security doesnt take chances.
I imagine that if you showed up with a dozen Starbucks coffees or a dozen Krispy Kremes it'd be easier to get in. ;) Though I dunno why you'd want in, given that you can now get level 3 and level 2 radar, UA maps, and model runs over the net.
When I first started chasing on my own in 1998, I did stop by National Weather Service offices a couple of times (bearing drinks) and they were quite nice. I did my best to stay out of everyone's way as there were reports of hoardes of chasers descending upon NWS offices and keeping the forecasters from their work. I skipped 1999 due to board exams. By 2000, internet access was plentiful enough that I didn't need to visit the NWS offices. Anyway, in those old days, the forecasters would show a chaser data or there might be a set of printed charts available for study but they wouldn't tell you where to go. I've never been back to NWS offices for data after 1998.

On a non significant weather day, a visit to a NWS office can be quite interesting for a new chaser. For data acquisition, it is not necessary even if the chaser doesn't have a laptop. I have been back to my local NWS or been in contact with other NWS only to give videos or images.

Bill Hark
I mostly agree with Jay, that it really depends on which office you visit, and why. Last summer when I was doing research for an article, I visited the guys at NWS Wichita. I did bring a bag of Krispy Kremes with me, just to say thanks for their time.

They gave me a great tour of their office (it was a fair weather day), and gave me lots of interview material. I got to take a lot of pictures, too. I did learn that they have a red sign which basically says "Severe Weather Event In Progress - NO ADMITTANCE". That sign is placed in the lobby, and doors are locked when things get wild.

In short, they are great guys, but they have a job to do. Their professionalism and duty to the public means that they are all business when the sky starts to boil.
I know a few people at the Springfield Mo. office and I'm sure if I ever needed data when in that area I could stop by, but I doubt it would ever come to that point. Like most said with today's technology and being able to have internet access on a laptop from your vehicle and with all the data now out there, there really isn't a need anymore to stop to get data.

This was a way to get data back in the 80's and into the mid 90's, but technology advanced so quickly and laptops and computers getting so much cheaper we (storm chasers) can have all the data we want right at our fingertips.
It really depends on the office and if they know a chaser/spotter and past experiences with them.

That's probably true, I think that if it was like a former employee or someone who has real close ties to the office, they probably wouldn't mind them dropping by...but I doubt they would open their doors to everyone.

I drop by to give them video and reports or just to BS on down days or after an event but I dont bother them on busy days. They have a job to do and they dont need chasers hanging over their shoulder or trying to get last minute forecasts or targets.

This is the way it probably should be done nowadays. I still don't think they'd want all kinds of chasers roaming their office several days afterwards either though. You probably still need to have some kind of relationship with the guys there or amazing video or something to get in.

Also since 9/11 all NWS offices are locked. you have to be escorted in.


Also I agree with whoever said the amount of data on the web really negates you having to stop by. I think you could probably arrange a tour on a non-siggy wx day if you sent a real nice email to one of the people there, but unfortunately in our day and age I don't think you can just walk in anymore, especially on a busy weather day.

Basically they have a job to do and handling all kinds of chasers and spotters would get crazy. Imagine a day like May 3, 1999 anywhere in the country if the office let in all chasers and spotters who wanted to stop in and see what was going on. If you let one person in with no questions ask...you have to extend the same hospitality to everyone.

So I would generally steer clear of an NWS office except on a nice sunny day where they'd probably be happy to answer your questions.

Although, I have heard that they are going to run frequent or possibly daily tours at the National Wx Center in Norman so who knows what that would all entail...just saw it on one of their links so it's probably still in the works. I think they want to cut down on "roaming" in the building though so you'd probably be restricted to a public atrium or the tour group. We shall see...
NWS Grand Rapids Office, now have security cameras
on all side of the building, with a big monitor inside.
Before 9/11, I could get in the office anytime, now
you basically need to make a an appointment to
visit. I have not visited our local office in over 2 yrs.

I was just out at KMKX last week for a meeting regarding this year's changes to the amateur radio support program for the office. Not much is new, but our ID cards need current (i.e. new) pictures of us and the new operators in the program are having some sort of background check conducted.

When I first got into the program prior to 9/11, the front door wasn't even locked. We just walked in, let the met's know we were in and went about our business. Now it's a different story, but rightfully so.

I remember watching some old Faidley video where he wanders into an NWS office, sits in their conference room and is pouring over a buch of charts with his colored pencils. I remember thinking that it was neat a chaser down in the plains could do that, but that behavior would have made some eyebrows raise up here, even back then.
In Toledo all I did was go to the xray scanner, tell them I was going to the NWS office, they'd let me around the scan and send me up the stairs... The stairs that led to the tower too! Even walked out on the airport's roof to watch an airshow one afternoon, that was quite a memory.

Don't imagine someone walking on the roof of an airport is acceptable anymore ;>
Our office (ILX) has never really had any problems with chasers dropping by, unannounced or otherwise -- maybe one per year if that. And the spotters are organized by the county EM's, so we usually don't have any direct contact with those spotters either.

Chris G.