Spotter Preparedness 

Severe weather can occur at any time. Because of this, the National Weather Service Office in North Platte maintains a continuous weather watch. Weather conditions are monitored 24 hours a day with warnings issued as conditions warrant. 

The National Weather Service, in joint cooperation with County and State Civil Defense Directors and Emergency Managers work to train SKYWARN groups. The National Weather Service does not recruit weather spotters. If you are interested in becoming active in a SKYWARN group contact your County Civil Defense Director or Emergency Manager.  

How to be a prepared spotter...

  • Listen for the SEVERE WEATHER OUTLOOK which is broadcast over  NOAA weather radio. This outlook is issued each morning by 630 AM (530 AM mountain time) and is updated again during the late morning hours. The outlook provides an assessment of the chances of spotter activation and the most likely areas spotter activation may be needed.

  • When a Severe Thunderstorm Watch or Tornado Watch is issued for your area, it is then time to make plans and be prepared for spotting.

  • When Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Warnings are being issued for the counties upstream from you it is time to go out.

  • If you see threatening weather approaching your location, please do not hesitate to call our office to see if spotters are necessary.

  • If possible, you should be in contact with other spotter groups in your area or be able to monitor their radio traffic.

  • Relay any severe weather information to the National Weather Service so that we can keep the media advised and warn other communities.

Spotter reporting procedures...

Law enforcement and storm spotters should report to the National Weather Service by the most direct means possible. Every spotter group should have an established procedure for relaying storm reports to the National Weather Service.


  • What you have seen.  Tornado, Funnel cloud, Wall cloud, Hail, Wind damage, etc...

  • Where you saw it.   The direction and distance from a known location.

  • When you saw it.  The time you saw it.

  • What it was doing.  Direction and speed it was moving, size and intensity, and damage.

Safety should always be first and foremost in you mind!

The National Weather Service values your safety more than your reports.  

Spotter Safety Tips

  • When spotting, travel in pairs if possible. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving while the other person watches the sky and handles radio communication.

  • Try to keep a 2-mile buffer between you and the storm. Frequently check overhead and behind to ensure no unexpected events are developing. Always have an escape route available.

  • LIGHTNING is the biggest hazard facing the spotter. Whenever possible, remain in your vehicle. If you must be outside, crouch as low as possible.

  • When spotting in a FLASH FLOOD situation, use common sense. Flash flooding is most dangerous at night. Do not drive on water covered roadways.

  • HAIL does not pose a threat to your life if you remain in your vehicle. However, large hail does indicate that you could be very near a tornado.

  • If a TORNADO is approaching your location, drive away from the tornado IF your are in open country and IF the movement of the tornado is known and IF your are familiar with the roads. If your are in an urban area, abandon your vehicle and take shelter in a reinforced building. If a building is not available, get into a culvert, ditch or other low spot in the ground.

Spotter Estimating and Reporting:

  • Hail:




Pea 0.25 - .375 inch
AA Battery 0.50 inch
Penny 0.75 inch
Nickel 0.88 inch
Quarter 1 inch
Half Dollar 1.25 inches
Walnut/Ping Pong Ball 1.50 inches
Golf Ball 1.75 inches
2.00 inches
Tennis Ball 2.50 inches
Baseball 2.75 inches
Tea Cup/Large Apple
3 inches
Softball 4.00 inches
Grapefruit 4.50 Inches
Computer CD/DVD 4.75-5.00 inches
  • Wind



Speed (mph)


25-31 Large branches in motion, whistling heard in telephone wires
32-38 Whole trees in motion, difficulty in walking against wind
39-54 Twigs break off trees, wind impedes progress
55-72 Damage to roofs, TV antennas, pushes over shallow rooted trees.
73+ Peels surface off roots, windows broken, light trailer houses moved or overturned, moving automobiles pushed off roads
110+ Roofs torn off houses, weak buildings and trailer homes destroyed, large trees snapped and uprooted

For more information on severe weather, go to our Watch, Warning, and Advisory page. is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.