Behind the Scenes: Weather Alerts from the National Weather Service Through SKYWARN® and CodeRED

The National Weather Service (NWS) is a component of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) that provides extensive data about weather, water, and climates in order to assist the nation in protecting lives and property. Here at ECN, we rely heavily on the NWS to provide our partners with the most up-to-date, accurate weather information so local residents and communities can stay informed and prepared.

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes to make these alerts possible? Answer: SKYWARN®.

SKYWARN® is a volunteer-based organization that utilizes more than 350,000 trained severe weather spotters on the ground across the nation to observe and report local storm data directly to the NWS. Storm spotters serve as eyes and ears, providing real-time live video feeds directly to the NWS through email and pictures. During potential inclement weather situations, NWS is able to watch the radar for storm developments and use SKYWARN® to help verify what’s occurring on the ground. SKYWARN helps in issuing early weather watches and warnings out to the public. SKYWARN® also works with the American Red Cross Disaster Relief in communities and emergency management officials across the states to collaborate on information disseminated to the public through local news and NOAA radios.

Josh Paschall, Founder and Operations Director of the Kentucky SKYWARN® spotters (KSS), has been a storm spotter/chaser for nine years now. “Spotters are the first out in the line of danger when it comes to dangerous and severe weather,” said Paschall. “Our team members undergo a minimum of 40 hours classroom instruction and certifications before reaching storm-spotter status. Our duty is to report hazardous weather situations to the NWS and emergency management officials so they can focus on keeping the public safe with timely notifications. We are in constant contact with local emergency management and the news media to ensure there is a steady flow of information during bad weather conditions.”

So how does Team KSS integrate CodeRED into their training and storm-spotting? The CodeRED Mobile Alert app provides the team with up-to-date information that can be useful during an actual storm chase. SKYWARN® uses the CodeRED Mobile Alert app to broadcast alerts out to the rest of the team and to look for potential obstacles or situations that may affect their storm-spotting abilities or routes, such as street closures or shelter-in-place warnings. “It’s very useful when trying to stay informed of updates on your current geographical location,” said Paschall. “In order to properly do our job, which is extremely time-sensitive, we need to be aware of what may be occurring near or around us that could impact our movement or equipment.”

The 22-member Kentucky team (Team KSS), which covers the state of Kentucky and the western portion of Tennessee, has been in operation for three years. Team KSS recently launched a new Facebook page, which has received an overwhelming amount of interest and support and they will be hosting a seminar on June 3, 2016 in Ashland, Kentucky to teach a sky warning class.