OKC Spotter Number Doesn't Work!!!

Ok, what's the deal? A big tornado on the ground and I'm interrupting my photo time to try and save lives - only to get OKC's regular voicemail saying something like "For current conditions and forecast - press 4. To speak to someone during regular business hours M-F 8 to 5 press 5, etc, etc. I tried and tried and no can report a tornado tearing up the ground with unknowing residents about to get run over - dead. Man I'm irritated!!

The number given me is: 405-360-5928. Try it yourself and you will see.

Something needs to be straightened up here.
 
Get a ham? OK/NW TX's repeater network is the way to go for relaying reports to OUN... probably one of the best networks in the country IMHO.

Aaron
 
Sounds like that's not the spotter number but the regular office line... I'm surprised Norman missed a major tornado - what all damage did it do? Any idea when (or if) they issued a TOR?
 
I haven't heard anything about any significant tornadoes, any major damage, or any injuries. It's news to me. Where and when was it?
 
I believe Bill is talking about the Burkburnett, Tx tornado last night. it was reported to be 200yrds wide at 1 point. Only a few people were on this storm as I understand it but some of them were Skywarn spotters who were in contact with OUN through the net that Aaron spoke about which I agree is probably the best in the country.
 
I believe Bill is talking about the Burkburnett, Tx tornado last night. it was reported to be 200yrds wide at 1 point. Only a few people were on this storm as I understand it but some of them were Skywarn spotters who were in contact with OUN through the net that Aaron spoke about which I agree is probably the best in the country.
[/b]

Yes, it was Burkburnett - actually it was across the Red from there on the OK side. I thought it was probably bigger than 200 yards wide but I was excited :lol: . I watched it form from the wall cloud as I approached. I was approaching it from the east as it was headed toward me, so very exciting especially since for a few of those miles there were large trees and some dips in the road blocking my view while it was on the ground. I didn't have any idea if there were spotters out there. I saw no one as I approached. I figured all the chasers were up north to Tulsa by then. There was a lot of people driving blindly toward it later, and even families out on the road. For awhile I blocked off the road. Later as I drove away I honked a lot flashed my lights and told a few people what they were driving toward. One family was out on the road looking at it only a couple of miles away then and didn't know what it was. It was rain wrapped then. I think it may have lasted longer than the SPC report shows (if that is the correct report I see). It started somewhere around 8:30 to 8:45 as I recall and later when I backtracked to a better position it looked like it was still on the ground in a larger / wider configuration. It was dark then but I had my Vx2000 on it. I'll have to review - may have been a wedge for awhile. Seems it was visible up to 9:30 in the dark.

I don't know what all it hit if anything. It began over mostly rural countryside. Hopefully no one was injured. I was trying to do my part. This was the number provided by Chris Novy for OUN as the spotter reporting number. I verified this is still his current number on the latest list. This list was incorporated into my Streetatlas phone overlay for reporting numbers. Not cool in my opinion. I don't have ham, and probably never will. That is the purpose of the cell phone contact list.

Chase account and pictures in a bit.

PS: Yes Rob they later did have a tornado warning I believe for the county north and south of the Red. I also later called 911 and got through.
 
Bill, This is NOT a flame to you (or anyone else for that metter. It's more an observation and food for thought.

My first thought after reading this thread for a while, was basically, agreement with Bill. Then I got a little more into this and went on.

If there was truly no one else on the storm and people were "blindly" driving into it, why wasn't the first call to 911? After all, the Dispatch Center generally has a more direct route to getting the EOC to sound the sirens and place a local warning than the Local Forecast Office does.

It's always been my policy to contact Emergency Services first if I believe there has been no previous contact, or within the first few minutes of an event. The 911 Operator will generally tell you if they've heard it or not. THEN contact the Local Forecast Office.

These are just my thoughts on the matter. I also understand that in the "heat of the moment" we can all get a bad case of tunnel vision leaving us to focus in the wrong direction. It's happened to me before as well.

Anyway... Just my thoughts on the events as described here. No digs at anyone, just a heads up and get someone thinking about a plan of action.

This would be an excellent "What would you do if?" selection.

John
 
My first thought after reading this thread for a while, was basically, agreement with Bill. Then I got a little more into this and went on.

If there was truly no one else on the storm and people were "blindly" driving into it, why wasn't the first call to 911? After all, the Dispatch Center generally has a more direct route to getting the EOC to sound the sirens and place a local warning than the Local Forecast Office does.

It's always been my policy to contact Emergency Services first if I believe there has been no previous contact, or within the first few minutes of an event. The 911 Operator will generally tell you if they've heard it or not. THEN contact the Local Forecast Office.

These are just my thoughts on the matter. I also understand that in the "heat of the moment" we can all get a bad case of tunnel vision leaving us to focus in the wrong direction. It's happened to me before as well.

Anyway... Just my thoughts on the events as described here. No digs at anyone, just a heads up and get someone thinking about a plan of action.

This would be an excellent "What would you do if?" selection.

John
[/b]

It's always been my impression that 911 may help sound the local sirens of nearby towns but may not relate the report to the NWS. This is what I have heard. That's why I was thinking this direct line to the NWS would be great - plus the tornado would be logged. I've used 911 on the past and thought it has it's limitations. Others with differing thoughts?
 
I can say that calling 911 isnt the best way to relay severe wx. If you have a NWS number call it first. That way they can issue a tornado warning and get the message to the mass media, DEM, and NOAA radio.

In many cases calling 911 wont do alot except to alert them about maybe needing to respond once damage has occured. Thats when you call 911. In most cases it takes many minutes for 911 to convey any kind of wx call to the local EOC if they even believe you. I know this first hand because I work with our local DEM. We have our own spotters in the field that report directly to the EOC. If we get citizens calls into 911 about things they see or think they see we will investigate and ask for confirmation from our spotters but that takes time. Never do we activate the EBS or sirens on a citizens report alone. We must have spotter confirmation or a warning from the NWS. I think Bill had the right idea. Would have been nice if the number was correct.
 
This list was incorporated into my Streetatlas phone overlay for reporting numbers. Not cool in my opinion. I don't have ham, and probably never will. That is the purpose of the cell phone contact list.
[/b]

It's your choice whether or not to use amateur radio, and there's no requirement for it in chasing. Many successful chasers don't. However, without a radio or scanner to monitor 2 meter frequencies, you may not be aware of the integrated spotter network all around you, as was the case yesterday on the storm near Randlett.

There were a half dozen spotters on that storm in constant communication with the NWS and it was all live on the radio. Central Oklahoma has a linked repeater system where you can listen (or make reports) as Net Controllers for various counties report to the NWS in Norman the information relayed from their individual operators. Yesterday was a perfect example of why OUN's spotter net is second to none. Within ninety seconds of the tornado, four reports came in confirming the tornado, debris cloud, and precise location. One spotter (who I was very jealous of) was within 1/4 mile of the tornado for much of its lifespan and remained even after it was rainwrapped.

Chasers monitoring the Skywarn net would know (1) where the tornado was exactly; (2) that the NWS knew about it [Norman's net controller is on the air, too, relaying live radar updates to the spotters] and (3) what's going on in the rest of the OUN CWA, including the status of the El Reno tornado and the storm near Lawton. All of this in a very smooth easy-to-follow format that plays like a rehearsed production. These guys are very good.

If you don't want to spend the cash on a ham radio, most scanners will pick up the 2 meter frequencies. In Oklahoma, it's worth the investment to have this information available.

This is why I also think it's important for chasers to make themselves familiar with the integrated warning system by attending Skywarn sessions or listening to the nets to see how they work. We may not always participate, but if you'd have heard the linked repeaters yesterday, it might have been more understandable why OUN wasn't answering the phone.
 
It's your choice whether or not to use amateur radio, and there's no requirement for it in chasing. Many successful chasers don't. However, without a radio or scanner to monitor 2 meter frequencies, you may not be aware of the integrated spotter network all around you, as was the case yesterday on the storm near Randlett.

There were a half dozen spotters on that storm in constant communication with the NWS and it was all live on the radio. Central Oklahoma has a linked repeater system where you can listen (or make reports) as Net Controllers for various counties report to the NWS in Norman the information relayed from their individual operators. Yesterday was a perfect example of why OUN's spotter net is second to none. Within ninety seconds of the tornado, four reports came in confirming the tornado, debris cloud, and precise location. One spotter (who I was very jealous of) was within 1/4 mile of the tornado for much of its lifespan and remained even after it was rainwrapped.

Chasers monitoring the Skywarn net would know (1) where the tornado was exactly; (2) that the NWS knew about it [Norman's net controller is on the air, too, relaying live radar updates to the spotters] and (3) what's going on in the rest of the OUN CWA, including the status of the El Reno tornado and the storm near Lawton. All of this in a very smooth easy-to-follow format that plays like a rehearsed production. These guys are very good.

I chased for 13 years without a HAM but i always had a scanner. Its a good idea to go to the net and get all of the areas spotter frequency and program them into your scanner. At least then you know or have a better idea of whats going on in the airways. Even with my ham I still use the scanner to scan frequencies while I monitor on HAM.
I saw some video of the Rndlett Oklahoma tornado earlier. It wasnt massive but it wasnt small either. About the same size as the first El Reno tornado. It did not do any major damage and only left a damage path through some trees near the Randlett cemetery.

If you don't want to spend the cash on a ham radio, most scanners will pick up the 2 meter frequencies. In Oklahoma, it's worth the investment to have this information available.

This is why I also think it's important for chasers to make themselves familiar with the integrated warning system by attending Skywarn sessions or listening to the nets to see how they work. We may not always participate, but if you'd have heard the linked repeaters yesterday, it might have been more understandable why OUN wasn't answering the phone.
[/b]
 
I can say that calling 911 isnt the best way to relay severe wx. If you have a NWS number call it first. That way they can issue a tornado warning and get the message to the mass media, DEM, and NOAA radio.

In many cases calling 911 wont do alot except to alert them about maybe needing to respond once damage has occured. Thats when you call 911. In most cases it takes many minutes for 911 to convey any kind of wx call to the local EOC if they even believe you. I know this first hand because I work with our local DEM. We have our own spotters in the field that report directly to the EOC. If we get citizens calls into 911 about things they see or think they see we will investigate and ask for confirmation from our spotters but that takes time. Never do we activate the EBS or sirens on a citizens report alone. We must have spotter confirmation or a warning from the NWS. I think Bill had the right idea. Would have been nice if the number was correct.
[/b]


It's your choice whether or not to use amateur radio, and there's no requirement for it in chasing. Many successful chasers don't. However, without a radio or scanner to monitor 2 meter frequencies, you may not be aware of the integrated spotter network all around you, as was the case yesterday on the storm near Randlett.

There were a half dozen spotters on that storm in constant communication with the NWS and it was all live on the radio. Central Oklahoma has a linked repeater system where you can listen (or make reports) as Net Controllers for various counties report to the NWS in Norman the information relayed from their individual operators. Yesterday was a perfect example of why OUN's spotter net is second to none. Within ninety seconds of the tornado, four reports came in confirming the tornado, debris cloud, and precise location. One spotter (who I was very jealous of) was within 1/4 mile of the tornado for much of its lifespan and remained even after it was rainwrapped.

Chasers monitoring the Skywarn net would know (1) where the tornado was exactly; (2) that the NWS knew about it [Norman's net controller is on the air, too, relaying live radar updates to the spotters] and (3) what's going on in the rest of the OUN CWA, including the status of the El Reno tornado and the storm near Lawton. All of this in a very smooth easy-to-follow format that plays like a rehearsed production. These guys are very good.

If you don't want to spend the cash on a ham radio, most scanners will pick up the 2 meter frequencies. In Oklahoma, it's worth the investment to have this information available.

This is why I also think it's important for chasers to make themselves familiar with the integrated warning system by attending Skywarn sessions or listening to the nets to see how they work. We may not always participate, but if you'd have heard the linked repeaters yesterday, it might have been more understandable why OUN wasn't answering the phone.
[/b]

As a ham, chaser, public safety dispatcher and NWS ham net operator (whew! Deep breath...) I wholeheartedly agree with both of these posts.

Calling 911 in most places will get you an overstressed dispatcher that is 1.) fielding many other 911 calls about the storm 2.) probably doen't know much about severe weather and/or doesn't care and 3.) will get around to relaying your report to the NWS after the phone stops ringing (never). Here in WI, the primary means of L.E. contacting the NWS is the cold war-era NAWAS party line system. It's a good tool, but it's on the bottom of the priority list when other things are happening. If I'm working, I'm on top of the weather and will be proactive in getting information to/from the field, plus relaying items to the NWS. I am in the vast minority of dispatchers that will be this proactive, as I would suspect occurs elsewhere in the county. I have no doubt that severe weather awareness is much greater in the plains, but it doesn't mean that dispatch centers are able to devote more time to the process.

If you chose to not become a licensed amateur radio operator, then the least you should do is get a scanner that can monitor 144-174 MHz and 430-470 MHz at a minimum, and the 800 MHz trunked radio segment if you really want as much info as you can. Keeping in mind that some states have scanner prohibitions, they are a great tool that would allow chasers to monitor the spotter networks. If Bill had heard that spotters were on the storm and NWS was aware of it, he could have sat back and worried about being a chaser. On the flip side of that, if Bill had heard there weren't spotters on the storm he could have pressed the issue with a 911 center to pass the information on sooner rather than later.

Besides the communications benefit that a ham license provides, there is the add-on of being exempt from scanner laws because most late model ham gear covers public safety receive and then some.
 
Good comments from all. Amos you bring up some good points. I should mention that I have considered getting the Ham and listening in on nets, but other much more experienced chasers that used to be plugged into the nets have told me that it is a great source of misleading information, that many spotter reports are bad, and you can make bad storm decisions based on them. Sorry spotters, this is just what I was told. I do have a scanner - I don't really know what frequencies to monitor. My scanner usually has static anyway. With the above said, IMO it seems that in retrospect there have been times such as Monday where monitoring those frequencies could be useful. Also, the OUN spotter network sounds impressive.

Also, these were some good points, but there is still the issue of OUN not having a valid spotter report number and no option for chasers not part of the net to call in reports. If this is their decision and opinion on the subject then I guess we just live with it. Perhaps the idea of chasers being able to help out with reports just isn't realistic. Perhaps I should worry more about taking pictures from now on. You should see my damn blurry pictures!!! Arghhhh!!! At least I can grab from video that looks marginal. My bad photos are primarily due to my concern for public safety and interest in making a call to NWS. The multitasking right in the heat of battle had me mega anxious as the tornado was headed my way and it was starting to get dark, When combined with my asthma it wasn't good - seems I could hardly breathe for a bit.
 
First of all, thanks for the comments on the amateur radio operations at OUN. A lot of people work very hard to make it as informative and helpful as possible. It is a great way to send information to and receive updates from NWS Norman. For more information on our amateur radio network, visit our website at weather.gov/norman/skywarn. You can also get more information about the Southwest Independent Repeater Association, the group who maintains the linked repeater system covering SW OK and N TX at their website - www.swiralink.com

Bill, I'm not sure why the number did not work for you on Monday - sorry you had problems! We answer that phone every day from 7AM until 8PM, and it is left on longer during significant weather. We do not publish our toll free number since it is used by emergency managers and public safety officials across our 56 county area of responsibility, and it gets quite a workout during active weather.

Thanks!

Rick
 
Bill,

It's unfortunate that you were told this about spotter networks. Spotters in almost all cases are dedicated and conscientious citizens who put themselves in harm's way and get their paint jobs banged up for no pay and little thanks. They don't have websites or sell video on the internet. Of course they don't see as many storms as we do, but in places like Oklahoma and Kansas, they have seen plenty. You can trust what they report. I wish some of those "experienced" chasers would come forward and put their names to claims like this. I don't expect it, however.

As for the value of a Skywarn net, here's what happened to me Monday. I was repositioning after having observed an initial wall cloud organize and then occlude. While I was turned away from the meso, a spotter reported a debris cloud visible on the ground. I drove down a side road that was more elevated and still could not see condensation on the ground, but after waiting a few more minutes, the tube emerged and touched down. If I hadn't been listening to the net, I don't know how long I would have repositioned without glancing at the area where I'd seen the WC. It's not out of the question that, given my distance from the tornado (~7 miles), I would have missed the whole thing.

Anyway, I'm glad you raised this issue. I think chasing is growing more distant from the integrated warning system and that doesn't help anybody, as far as I can tell.


Good comments from all. Amos you bring up some good points. I should mention that I have considered getting the Ham and listening in on nets, but other much more experienced chasers that used to be plugged into the nets have told me that it is a great source of misleading information, that many spotter reports are bad, and you can make bad storm decisions based on them. Sorry spotters, this is just what I was told.[/b]
 
I completely agree with Amos's positive sentiments about the OUN linked spotter system. I find the information given out on the various repeaters (Cyril, OKC, etc) to be extremely informative. When the net is active, you'll usually hear radar updates every 5-15 minutes, along with any warnings, statements, or (my favorite) warning decision updates. Even if you have mobile data / internet, I find it very informative and worthwhile, unless you sit on an NWS text page and hit refresh every 30 seconds to check for the latest updates/warnings/etc. The radar updates are excellent, and give you another point of view or opinion about the situation (another being one different from your own). Two thumbs up to OUN and those who work on the amatuer radio system across the OUN CWA. With all that said, I strongly suggest getting even a scanner if you chase in the OUN CWA much. For whatever reason, I've heard much more discussion on the OKC and Cyril repeaters than on the Watonga repeater, so I consider the coverage in the southern and southwestern part of the state to be a tad better than the northwestern and north-central part of the state. Of course, there are numerous smaller-area repeaters that are intended to be used for spotter-to-net command communication (while the Cyril and OKC repeaters are intended more for net commend / EOC to OUN communication from my experience).

(Note, TSA and other NWSFOs have nice amatuer radio systems as well, but OUNs is tops in my experience).
 
Bill, I'm not sure why the number did not work for you on Monday - sorry you had problems! We answer that phone every day from 7AM until 8PM, and it is left on longer during significant weather. We do not publish our toll free number since it is used by emergency managers and public safety officials across our 56 county area of responsibility, and it gets quite a workout during active weather.
[/b]

Rick, please check out the voice mail system on the non-800 number. As I recall there were only two options (seems like they were #4 and #5). None were to report weather. I tried to call earlier but the first time I got in was 8:39:29. I had to borrow a ladies cell phone of a family out standing on the road watching the storm. I had initially attempted contact between 8:20 and 8:31 as I approached the wallcloud and before the tornado was completely down.

Also your office might consider providing Chris Novy with the 800 number as other NWS offices have US wide. See the link http://www.stormtrack.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=10782. If you provide it to me, I can update it, but it may take awhile.

Also (the rest of you), what frequencies do y'all recommend we monitor? I do have a Bearcat Scanner. Perhaps it would pick some up? Thx.
 
Bill,

In the OUN CWA:
sw_map2.gif


I made a placefile of Skywarn / spotter repeaters for use in GRLevel3, but it contains the location (the lat/lons aren't in for every one yet) and the frequencies for a bunch of repeaters across the central US (again, the lat/lon points for the KS/NE/TX repeaters aren't in yet; if someone wants to sit down with Street Atlas or something and get those lat and lon points, feel free!... Check it out at http://grlevel3.tornadocentral.com/repeaters.txt
 
I have to put another plug in for the wide area repeater, W5BEC, near Eddy, Texas. The repeater is 1600 feet AGL and covers about 20 Central Texas counties. The covered area is roughly San Saba on the west, Bryan/College Station on the east, Round Rock to the south and Hillsboro to the north

We are not and will not be linked to other repeaters but we are linked to the NWS Fort Worth via EchoLink. FTW loves us because of our coverage and approach to spotting. I personally dislike linking repeaters since one person can tie up all of the repeaters on a network.

I am often the net control station (night vision is very poor and have to be in by dark) and have several weather related programs and displays running including GRL3, RealEmwin, DA, WeatherTap, and APRS (UIView with radar underlays).

Any LICENSED spotter/chaser is welcome to make reports on this repeater. Some repeaters require that you be regeristered in some form or fashion to make reports. In the DFW area you must be a RACES member.

The details:
W5BEC 147.140, PL 123
31.16.7N, 97.13.9W, 1600 feet agl (four miles east of MM 315 on IH-35)

BTW, a good 'new in the box' 2 meter radio and the mag mount antenna can be purchased for about 200 dollars. You can have multiple repeaters being scanned. You can listen but not transmit without a ham license. There is an exception that allows emergency transmissions if life or property is in immediate danger such as the event at the start of the thread described. BEWARE, the FCC does not take kindly to unauthorized transmissions, especially if it is deemed to be interference with emergency communications.

Joe Dorn, W5VEX
Trustee for W5BEC
 
Also (the rest of you), what frequencies do y'all recommend we monitor? I do have a Bearcat Scanner. Perhaps it would pick some up? Thx.
[/b]
If you don't have a frequency list handy for your current location (not uncommon while chasing), you can just scan the 2m and 70cm ham bands. Most Skywarn frequencies are found here. These bands are from 144 - 148 MHz and 420-450 MHz.
 
Good comments from all. Amos you bring up some good points. I should mention that I have considered getting the Ham and listening in on nets, but other much more experienced chasers that used to be plugged into the nets have told me that it is a great source of misleading information, that many spotter reports are bad, and you can make bad storm decisions based on them. Sorry spotters, this is just what I was told. I do have a scanner - I don't really know what frequencies to monitor. My scanner usually has static anyway. With the above said, IMO it seems that in retrospect there have been times such as Monday where monitoring those frequencies could be useful. Also, the OUN spotter network sounds impressive.

Also, these were some good points, but there is still the issue of OUN not having a valid spotter report number and no option for chasers not part of the net to call in reports. If this is their decision and opinion on the subject then I guess we just live with it. Perhaps the idea of chasers being able to help out with reports just isn't realistic. Perhaps I should worry more about taking pictures from now on. You should see my damn blurry pictures!!! Arghhhh!!! At least I can grab from video that looks marginal. My bad photos are primarily due to my concern for public safety and interest in making a call to NWS. The multitasking right in the heat of battle had me mega anxious as the tornado was headed my way and it was starting to get dark, When combined with my asthma it wasn't good - seems I could hardly breathe for a bit.
[/b]

Obviously everybody looks at it a little differently, but I can't imagine the value of listening to spotter reports as much of a tool to chasing anyway. If spotting is really so bad out there, then that seems like a good reason for you (as an experienced chaser) to become a ham, not avoid being a ham. Assuming somebody is chasing (and not spotting), I see (for myself at least) ham radio as having two primary purposes:

First purpose is to listen to the spotter networks to make sure that the NWS is fully up to date on what is happening. If I hear six spotters feeding continuous information to NWS and I have nothing to add, then I can happily leave that running in the background as I enjoy the storms. I don't have to worry about the safety of the public if I have nothing to add. I don't have to wonder what the NWS knows or doesn't know, and I don't have to mess around with my cellphone. On the rare occasion that a path to NWS is available and the situation isn't being heavily covered, then I'm definitely going to get on there and try to help (especially when NWS starts asking for information). In Oklahoma (especially), the NWS will even broadcast useful information over the radio.

Second, ham provides a high quality and reliable method of communications directly to other chasers. Adds to the fun side of chasing being able to meet chasers, find people you want to meet up with, or just talking about the days storms on the long drives home. It is so nice to be able to talk to a group of people by radio instead of trying to use cellphones in areas where the systems are already overloaded.

I certainly encourage non-ham chasers to become hams. At the very least, you give yourself options that could possibly make a big difference one day.
 
The 360-5928 number works, you just have to be patient through the recorded message and then choose option #5. This will send your call to a live desk where a human being will answer. The problem I had the other day wasn't with the automated system, it was just getting through. At first I had no signal. Once I did, I was directed to the live line each time I called, but it was always busy.
 
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