Online Spotter Show Available

Do you know what a shelf cloud is?  Do you know the difference between a shelf cloud and a wall cloud?  The answers to these questions and others can be found by viewing the  online Spotter Show from the National Weather Service in Indianapolis. This show is targeted at trained spotters looking to refresh their knowledge, but it is simple enough to be understandable by the weather enthusiast.  Are you interested in becoming a storm spotter for the National Weather Service?  If so, this might be the place to start.

Take a look and let us know what you think.  We recommend you view this show with a broadband/high speed internet connection since there are videos included.  The show will take about 30 minutes to complete.

If you wish to bookmark this online Spotter Show, the link is:

There is now another online Spotter Training course. This one is from COMET, and you can find it at their website. 

Important Definitions

Watch: Issued when conditions are favorable for a particular severe weather hazard within the next several hours.

Warning: Issued when a particular severe weather hazard is imminent or occurring. Take immediate action to protect life and property.


Severe Thunderstorm/Tornado Safety Basics:

1. Get In:

  • Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
  • Stay Away from doors and windows.

2. Get Down:

  • Get to the lowest floor possible. Basements are best during tornadic or very high wind situations.

3. Cover Up

4. Remain Calm

More details can be found within this brochure: pdf version  

Types of Severe Weather:

Tornado: A violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm cloud to the ground. The Enhanced Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale is used to categorize tornadoes.

Severe Thunderstorm: A thunderstorm that produces a tornado, damaging winds of 58 mph or higher, and/or quarter (1 inch) size hail or larger.

  • Hail Sizes: (view a chart with hail sizes [pdf])
    • Pea Size: 0.25 inches
    • Small Marble: 0.50 inches
    • Penny: 0.75 inches
    • Nickel: 0.88 inches
    • Quarter: 1.00 inches
    • Half Dollar: 1.25 inches
    • Ping Pong Ball: 1.50
    • Golf Ball: 1.75 inches
    • Hen Egg: 2.00 inches
    • Tennis Ball: 2.50 inches
    • Baseball: 2.75 inches
    • Grapefruit: 4.00 inches
    • Softball: 4.50 inches

Flash Flood: a flood which will create an immediate threat to life or property. Safety rules for flash flooding can be found with this brochure (15MB pdf)

High Wind: A High Wind Warning is issued for sustained winds of 40 mph or wind gusts of 58 mph


Be Prepared with NOAA All Hazards Radio

  • Your single source for comprehensive weather and emergency information!

More Information:


Tornadoes - Natures Most Violent Storms
Enhanced Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale

Thunderstorms and Lightning

Thunderstorms and Lightning - The Underrated Killers
NOAA Lightning Safety Page
Storm Spotter's Field Guide

Flooding/Flash Flooding

Flash Floods and Floods - The Awesome Power (15MB pdf)

Winter Weather

Winter Storms, The Deceptive Killers (large PDF)

Hurricanes and Tropical Storms

Tropical Cyclones - A Preparedness Guide  (PDF)
Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale
Hurricane Names
National Hurricane Center

Summer Heat

All About Heat Waves
Heat Index Chart


Drought Information Center
All About Drought is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.