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Storm Spotter's Training Guide

Intro to Storm Spotting

What - or who - is a storm spotter or chaser? There are as many answers for this question as there are types of individuals involved in tracking severe weather such as tornadoes and hurricanes. Storm spotters and chasers come from every walk of life: scientists, emergency services personnel, educators, hobbyists, and many others. 

Some have a moderate interest in weather and follow information on the radio, television, scanners, or visual observation. They might mention the subject to friends or relatives, but take no further action.

Others go a step further and obtain training as a meteorologist, storm spotter or amateur radio operator. These courageous volunteers donate time to keep their communities safe.

Those with a consuming passion for severe weather watching become storm chasers. They travel many miles, usually at their own expense, photographing and collecting information to help scientists and others learn about severe weather and ways to provide early warning, mitigate property damage, and save lives.

Basic Storm Spotter's Guide

Becoming a storm spotter is easy - contact the emergency services in your community and ask about training. The National Weather Service, American Red Cross, and local amateur radio clubs are another source of educational information. SkyWarn is the official storm spotting training branch of the NWS and provides yearly classes for training and certification.

Becoming a licensed ham radio operator is optional but increases spotters' experience and value. Training in meteorology is helpful but not required. In most states, anyone with an interest in severe weather is eligible to train and become a storm spotter.

Advanced Storm Spotter's Guide

Advanced storm spotters usually obtain ham radio licenses and take other courses, like meteorology, to aid them in their work. The NWS and other agencies offer many advanced training courses, while some colleges and universities offer courses and college credits for storm spotters. DuPage University features an in-the-field training classes each year for spotters and chasers. Space is limited and the classes fill quickly.

Storm Chasing

Storm chasers rarely enter the field for money. Most have a desire to learn more about severe weather and appreciate the beauty and raw power of tornadoes and other storms. While some make money by selling photographs, video footage, or printed materials, others may conduct tours and storm chasing vacations. Overall, most would agree they chase storms for other than monetary reasons.


Why do people do storm spotting and chasing?

They have a sincere desire to help others.

They want to prevent weather-related disasters and damage.

Scientific curiosity and the quest for knowledge drive them.

Flirting with possible death and danger entices them.

Journalistic competitiveness sends them after the ultimate new story.

What is your reason?

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