Tornado season is fast approaching, and amateur radio operators will again play a key role in helping the National Weather Service (NWS) issue accurate and timely warnings. In fact, March through May is considered the most active period for tornadoes to develop.
The NWS reports there have already been 255 preliminary filtered reported tornadoes and 213 confirmed tornadoes in the United States in 2023. Worldwide, nine tornado-related deaths have been confirmed, all of them in the United States.
January saw the third-highest number of tornado watches and confirmed tornadoes of any January on record in the United States. Additionally, the first two months of the year saw the fourth-highest number of confirmed tornadoes for the first 59 days of any year on record.
The SKYWARNĘ (weather.gov) Storm Spotter Program is available to anyone interested in helping the NWS track and report potentially dangerous weather. Anyone can become a SKYWARN weather spotter, and the information is available at the SKYWARN website. Most states have amateur radio networks that are activated during severe weather. Trained volunteers use their radios to report rapidly changing activity and share the information with local weather offices. A list of the states that have scheduled special weather awareness activities can be found at the NWS Awareness and Preparedness Calendar (weather.gov).
The NWS Forecast office in Norman, Oklahoma, uses amateur radio as one method of communicating with spotter groups and emergency management organizations. For decades, amateur radio operators have provided invaluable service in support of the SKYWARN storm spotter program by using their unique communications capabilities to share critical information between the NWS, the local emergency management officials, and storm spotter networks.
In 1999, the NWS, along with ARRL, founded SKYWARN Recognition Day to honor the voluntary contributions of thousands of amateur radio operators who play a critical role in keeping the public safe and informed about severe weather conditions. The day is celebrated on the first Saturday in December, and amateur radio spotters can earn awards for participating.
The 2022 NWS Spotter of the Year Award was given to Bryan Loper, WX5CSS, of Atlanta, Texas. The award noted that Loper is very active with the amateur radio network and weather community within the Arkansas/Louisiana/Texas region, and is always reliably providing weather reports. Loper is an ARRL member.
To learn more about amateur radio licensing and SKYWARN visit ARRL.org.
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