Quad Cities SKYWARN Trains 1,700 New Storm Spotters After Devastating April Weather

The National Weather Service's Quad Cities SKYWARN program has trained 1,700 new storm spotters in 36 counties across Western and Central Iowa, Northwest Illinois, and Northeast Missouri. The program, which has around 4,000 total spotters, provides critical information to enhance severe weather preparedness and response.

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Nitish Verma
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Quad Cities SKYWARN Trains 1,700 New Storm Spotters After Devastating April Weather

Quad Cities SKYWARN Trains 1,700 New Storm Spotters After Devastating April Weather

Following a devastating start to the spring severe weather season in April, the National Weather Service's Quad Cities SKYWARN program has trained 1,700 new storm spotters in 36 counties across Western and Central Iowa, Northwest Illinois, and Northeast Missouri.

Why this matters: TheSKYWARN program plays a critical role in enhancing severe weather preparedness and response, which is crucial for protecting lives and property in regions prone to natural disasters. By training more storm spotters, the program can provide more accurate and timely warnings, ultimately reducing the risk of injury and loss.

The SKYWARN program, established in the 1970s, is a part of the National Weather Service's regular operations and is taxpayer-funded, with an expense of roughly $5 per citizen per year. The program has around 4,000 total spotters in the NWS Quad Cities service area, covering 21 counties in Eastern Iowa, 13 in Northwest Illinois, and two in Northeast Missouri.

Rich Kinney, NWS Quad Cities Warning Coordination Meteorologist, explains, "We have 21 counties in Eastern Iowa and then 13 in Northwest Illinois and two in Northeast Missouri. There are around 4,000 total spotters in the NWS Quad Cities service area. They help us provide potentially lifesaving information, so they are doing a great public service."

The free training sessions cover how to communicate with the NWS and what spotters might see out in the field, with safety as the top priority. Jared Davis, a SKYWARN storm spotter, notes, "Going there and understanding what is truly a threat and what's just a scary-looking cloud has helped some folks as well." He adds, "Storms go through different phases, and being able to understand what phase the storm is currently in, I think, is valuable."

The program trains volunteers to provide on-the-ground reports during severe weather, acting as the "eyes and ears" for the NWS. Spotters report information like hail size and damage, dense fog, funnel clouds, and flash flooding, which informs the response of the NWS and its partners like county emergency management agencies. The program is open to all ages, although ages 10 and up will likely get the most out of the training.

Spotters can be stationary or mobile, with some choosing to move with storms to observe their development and formation. It is important to note the distinction between storm spotters and storm chasers. Storm spotters observe weather and report to the NWS or another agency, with a primary goal of public safety. Storm chasers, on the other hand, are focused on photographing or filming storms.

Rich Kinney emphasizes the importance of the human element in the SKYWARN program, stating, "We're never going to get rid of that human element." The 1,700 newly trained spotters will play a crucial role in enhancing the region's severe weather preparedness and response, especially after the devastating start to the spring severe weather season in April.

Key Takeaways

  • NWS Quad Cities SKYWARN program trains 1,700 new storm spotters in 36 counties.
  • SKYWARN program enhances severe weather preparedness and response, saving lives and property.
  • Program has 4,000 total spotters in NWS Quad Cities service area, covering 21 IA, 13 IL, and 2 MO counties.
  • Free training sessions cover communication, spotting, and safety, open to all ages (10+ recommended).
  • Spotters provide on-the-ground reports, acting as "eyes and ears" for NWS, informing response and public safety.