What to Report

Emergencies & Disasters to Report

Emergency or DisasterDetailed Example
TornadoesTornadoes, Funnel Clouds and Wall Clouds
HailstonesHalf-inch diameter or larger (marble size)

Wind Gusts
Estimated 50 mph or stronger.
FloodsAny flooding that covers roads or threatens property, whether from precipitation, ice jams, or coastal flooding
Heavy RainOne inch per hour or heavier. Also, anytime one inch of rain falls in a time period of 24 hours or less.

Beaufort Scale

Wind SpeedVisible Effects
25 to 31 mphLarge branches in motion
32 to 38 mphWhole trees in motion
39 to 54 mphTwigs break off trees
55 to 72 mphDamage to chimneys and TV antenna; pushes over shallow rooted trees

Spotter Reporting Guidelines

Condition Red

Under Condition Red, spotters should only report sightings of:

  • Tornadoes
  • Funnel Clouds
  • Wall Clouds
  • 3/4 > diameter or larger hail (dime size=3/4 inch)

Spotters should otherwise maintain radio silence. Check-ins and other less serious reports are not permitted under Condition Red.

Condition Yellow

Under Condition Yellow, spotter reports are restricted to Condition Red reports plus other extreme storm effects such as:

  • Intense and frequent lightning
  • Hail (give approximate diameter)
  • Damaging winds (brief reports of damage observed)
  • Torrential rain (with near zero visibility)
  • Flooding over the curbs

Spotters should otherwise maintain radio silence. Check-ins and other less serious reports are not permitted under Condition Yellow

Condition Green

Under Condition Green, spotters may report any storm effects, at the discretion and directions of the net control station, such as:

  • Gust front arrival
  • Approaching thunderstorm
  • Heavy rain, etc.

Spotters Reporting Procedures

The most simple method of reporting is called the "TEL System":

  • T = Time of Observation
  • E = Effect (Hail, Winds, Etc.)
  • L = Location

Time of the observation is very important in the spotter's report. For example, a tornado moving at 50 MPH will travel over 4 miles in 5 minutes. The time of the sighting will help national weather service officials determine the properties of the storm. All reports should use "local" time.

Effects of the storm system can include such things as hail, heavy rain, wall cloud, a funnel cloud or tornado. Description of the effects should be brief and concise.

Location of the storm should be indicated as closely as possible, using reference to the nearest town (i.e. 2 miles east of Ida) or the nearest major road or street intersections, including an estimate of the direction that the storm is traveling. Give your location with every report.

Here are some examples of how a report might be made:

  • 3:47 - Gust front with 50 mph winds at Secor and Morocco heading to the northeast.
  • 3:50 - 1/2 inch hail at Secor and Morocco moving to the northeast.
  • 3:56 - Wall cloud 1 mile south of Ida moving toward the northeast at 20 mph.
  • 4:05 - funnel cloud at S Custer and Strasburg heading to the northeast.

If a SKYWARN net is not already in progress when threatening weather appears, by all means start one up. Contact your Emergency Coordinator or an Assistant EC, (via phone if necessary). He will take over the net as soon as possible. In the meantime, report any funnel clouds / tornadoes to Central Dispatch via 911

Report Limitations

  • Funnel Cloud Aloft
  • Tornado Touchdown
  • (including direction and estimated speed of travel, if possible.)
  • Cloud Rotations (Sustained)
  • Damaging Winds (Above 58 mph)
  • Large Hail (1/2 Inch or larger)
  • Flooding in Progress
  • Any Damage from the above

Spotters Aids

  • Hail - Estimating Size
  • Pea Size = 1/4 inch
  • Dime Size= 1/2 inch
  • Nickel Size = 3/4 inch
  • Quarter Size = 1 inch
  • Golf Ball Size = 1 3/4 inch

Estimating Wind Speed

  • 22 to 31 mph: Large branches in motion
  • 32 to 38 mph: Whole trees in motion
  • 39 to 54 mph: Twigs break off trees
  • 55 to 72 mph: Shallow trees uprooted
  • 73 to 112 mph: Scattered structural damage