Severe Weather Spotter Training

Storm Spotter Resources Severe Weather Reporting More Info


        Severe Weather Spotter Training
EF-3 Tornado near Gifford, IL
Photo by Jessie Starkey  11/17/13

Severe storm spotters are a VITAL part of the warning process and played a critical role in getting timely warnings and information out to the public during the deadly tornado outbreak on November 17, 2013!

The NWS in Lincoln, IL provides on-site spotter training classes annually in various locations across central and southeast Illinois between March and early April.

Anyone with an interest is welcome to attend a spotter class. Children (under the age of 18) are welcome to attend the class, however, they will not be considered official spotters. There is no cost for this training - just 2 to 2.5 hours of your time for the class.

The spotter training class is designed for people new to severe storm spotting, as well as those that need refresher training. The training is comprised of all of the information that spotters need to be effective and stay safe. 


EF-4 Tornado in Washington, IL              Aerial View of Damage & Tornado Track in Washington, IL 
Photo by Anthony Khoury                                             from EF-4 Tornado - 11/17/13

Topics covered in the spotter training class include:

  • Spotter Safety

  • Thunderstorm development and features

  • Types of Thunderstorms - especially those that impact Illinois

  • Types of Tornadoes, Landspouts and Gustnadoes

  • Non-tornadic severe weather (T-storm Wind Gusts, Large Hail & Flooding)

  • Resources for Spotters

  • How and What Spotters Need to Report



Severe Weather Spotter Training  



  Spotter Resources

1) Online Spotter Training Classes (through UCAR MetEd)

There is NO COST to take the two classes which make up this training: "Role of the SKYWARN Spotter" and "SKYWARN Spotter Convective Basics".

All you need is a login account & password on the MetEd web page.

 Click the image to the left to get started!

Important Note: You are still HIGHLY encouraged to attend a spotter training class in or near your area to learn about local effects and local reporting procedures. These online classes are intended as either a brief introduction to severe storm spotting OR as a refresher for spotters who have attended a class in the last few years.


2) Additional Resources for Storm Spotters

Note: Utilizing these items does NOT make you a trained spotter. These are intended as resource material only. If you have an interest in storm spotting please attend a spotter class in your area.


Spotter's Field Guide (1.9 MB PDF)                       2012 NWS Lincoln 
Spotter Training (32.5 MB  PDF)

Planning Resources for Spotters - NWS Lincoln Web Products (1.8 MB PDF) 

 From the Storm Prediction Center:

                                                                                                                                             Photo by Brittney Misialek

Frequently Asked Questions                         Facts About Derechos
About Tornadoes




Severe Weather Reporting

I) How to Make a Report

If you observe severe weather in central or southeast Illinois, please make a report as safely & as soon as possible to one of the following locations:

  • The county sheriff's office or local police department

II) What to report 

1.       Tornadoes

2.       Funnel Clouds, Rotating Wall Clouds or any other rotations

3.       Flooding / Heavy Rain

a.      Rapidly rising creeks, streams or rivers.

b.      High water on city streets or rural roads, 6” or more in depth AND any road closures, especially in areas that do not normally flood.

c.       Heavy rainfall that is accumulating at rates of 1 inch per hour

4.       High Wind – around 60 mph and greater or ANY WIND DAMAGE
(Note: Report high wind even if it is not associated with a thunderstorm)

a.       40 to 55 mph – small tree branches broken off

b.      55 to 70 mph – large tree branches broken off, shallow rooted trees 
blown over, damage to chimneys, guttering, roofing and sheds.

c.       Greater than 70 mph – heavy damage to structures such as roofing torn off, power poles snapped, trailers overturned, large trees blown over. 

     5.  Large Hail (1.00" or greater in diameter)


Hail Size
Hail Size
Golf Ball
One Half Inch
Tennis Ball
Large Apple
Ping-Pong Ball

      6. Lightning Damage

              a.   Injuries or fatalities due to a lightning strike

              b.   Property damage due to a lightning strike



More Information / Questions?

If you have any questions about spotter training classes in central or southeast Illinois contact Warning Coordination Meteorologist Chris Miller at



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