questions about being a spotter


Dec 7, 2006
As of now I have not storm chased but am very interested in it. I know I need to become more educated in this area, so I was thinking about becoming a volunteer spotter for the local area. Any clues on how I should go about this? Ive read through the information provided on this site and NOAA site about being a spotter. I think it would help prepare me to get out in the field and start chasing. I would just like to get some personal feedback on this because some of the information seems a little out of date but still very useful.

Southwest Missouri (Joplin area)
The first thing you should do is attend a spotter talk from your local NWS office. They'll generally publish a schedule in the late January to early March timeframe. At the talk, you'll get information on how to contact the office and what their preference is for certain things (some offices want all hail reports phoned in, some only want severe hail, for example). Another thing you can do is contact your county's emergency management office. In some locations, the EM coordinates much of the spotter activity. If you're not already a ham radio operator, getting your license is a third thing you can do to become active as a spotter. Most places have a fairly active network of ham radio operators who report events in to the NWS office.

I agree that spotting can be a help in becoming a chaser, but you need to keep in mind that they can be very different as well. As a spotter, you'll generally stay put (or move within a small area). As a chaser, you're all over the place. However, you will learn from being a spotter, and learning is the most important thing a chaser can do. Best of luck!

There's a lot of ways to learn about chasing and becoming a spotter is a very good one. What I did was get my ham radio license first, mainly because there were no SKYWARN sessions underway at the time, then attended the first class I could. The presentation on the visual recognition of severe storms was useful when I had little experience with storms in person. Most storms don't look like the textbook representations, of course, but you have to start somewhere. A spotter class can provide a good fundamental basis for chasing.

I still attend Skywarn every two years when I can, to keep in touch with new procedures and other changes in the warning system and as a warm-up for the spring. Good NWSFO's vary their presentations from year to year so there's usually something new. I feel like spotting for NWS is a privilege since, after you chase a few years, your experience could save somebody's life.
Here is a link to a SW MO ARES site,with links to the Springfield NWS.
After looking at the Springfield NWS site they don't have the schedule up for the 07 training classes yet,but they should be up in the next month or 2.Good luck on the training.I need to get working on material for our clasess which will start in Feb.
my dad and i took the classes back in 2004. i was very interested in storms, but didnt know much about them. that class taught me a lot of the knowledge i have today and gave me some good websites to go on and read, and i put that info to use this past summer during my rookie chasing season. it's definately helpful for chasing, but i would also suggest reading other material besides just the spotter guides before you start chasing.
I second (and third) some of the other comments, but want to relay my own story.

After I first became interested in spotting (hearing spotters on my scanner), I attended a local ham radio meeting. You can also get in contact with the local club president or emergency coordinator to learn more about the local group.

A search for clubs is here

I actually recommend doing that now, especially since we're just zooming toward winter. I went that route in the Fall one year, and had my ham radio ticket and had formal NWS and some one-on-one instruction before I headed out the door on my first spotting excursion.

By the time storm season rolled around, I had already made friends, was on-the-air, and had more knowledge than I would ever have had just starting the process at that late-winter/early-spring training session.

I'd highly recommend (and some groups require) that new spotters ride along the first few times, which only makes sense. I did.

My first training session used "Tornado: On The Spot Training". If you ever see that, you'll be able to tell how far we have come! HINT: they were just shooting on color film at that time. Film. (I still have that on tape, and it's great for a chuckle and a lot of nostalgia.)

Good luck.