About Skywarn™...
The National Weather Service modernized during the 1990s, with technological advances and employee training greatly improving the warning process.
While changes have taken place, some things have remained the same.  Skywarn™ has been around for several decades, and is valuable when severe weather threatens.
Each year, the value of this program is celebrated during Skywarn™ Recognition Day.
Skywarn™ Recognition Day
National Weather Service Logo The National Association for Amateur Radio Logo National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Logo

The National Weather Service, in cooperation with the Amateur Radio Relay League, sponsored Skywarn™ Recognition Day from 6 pm CST on November 30th to 6 pm CST on December 1st, 2012. The purpose of the event was to recognize the vital public service contribution that amateur radio operators make during National Weather Service severe weather warning operations. It is important to remember that these radio operators are volunteers. They give their time and use of their equipment as a public service.

HAM radio operators during Skywarn™ Recognition Day, 2012. This was the 14th year of the event (since 1999). Amateur radio operators, commonly known as HAMs, participated at over 100 National Weather Service (NWS) offices across the country.
In the picture (clockwise from left): HAM radio operators during Skywarn™ Recognition Day, 2012 included Andrew Stephens (NT5LA), Amanda Stephens (KB5HOG), Frank Besier (K5WLI), Mona Blacklaw (KM5ONA) and Danny Straessle (KE5WLR). Click to enlarge.

In Arkansas, a special radio call sign...W5A...was assigned to the HAMs at North Little Rock. The HAMs attempted to reach as many other weather offices as possible and other participating contacts around the world. 

National Weather Service offices in Arkansas and surrrounding states that participated in Skywarn™ Recognition Day, 2012.
In the picture: National Weather Service offices in Arkansas and surrrounding states that participated in Skywarn™ Recognition Day, 2012.

In actual emergencies, the HAMs are often called upon for their radio skills. For example, during severe weather outbreaks, HAMs operate a base station at the National Weather Service to gather reports of severe weather across Arkansas. Watches, warnings, and statements are broadcast from the base station to HAMs around the state.

HAMs were not contacted much in 2012 due to continuing drought conditions. Severe storms were minimal, with only 16 tornadoes statewide through November (33 tornadoes are counted in a normal year). Even so, there was a big event on January 22nd. Seven tornadoes were spawned in southern Arkansas. One storm in particular had a history of producing tornadoes (five of them) over a six county area. HAMs communicated with people impacted by the storm, and provided forecasters with valuable details such as when and where damage occurred and the extent of the damage.

In the picture (from left): Jo Ann Keith (KB5LLP) helped André Kissel (a high school student) obtain his HAM radio licence while Kelly Kissel (father of André) watched. Click to enlarge. HAM radio operators during Skywarn™ Recognition Day, 2012.

In addition to gathering severe weather reports in their areas, many HAMs have been certified as severe weather spotters. In fact, the names of several hundred HAMs are found in the spotter rolls.

More participants at Skywarn™ Recognition Day, 2012. In the picture (from left): Travis Coombe (W2TMC) and Mark Wayne (N0QCN) posed for the camera before hitting the airwaves. Click to enlarge.

In cases of widespread communications outages, the HAMs can also serve as a vital link between National Weather Service offices when normal communications circuits are out of service.

For example, a large earthquake along the New Madrid fault...which runs from Illinois to Arkansas...could very well knock out most normal communications. In such a situation, HAMs would operate their radio equipment and serve to link National Weather Service offices.

During the record-breaking hurricane season in 2005 (storms such as Katrina and Rita), HAMs provided such services to offices adjacent to the Gulf Coast.


For more about Skywarn™, visit our Skywarn™ page by clicking here.

For more information concerning Skywarn™ Recognition Day...visit the official event homepage by clicking here. is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.