You may be asking yourself “Why does the National Weather Service need a spotter program?” Many people get the idea that fancy new equipment such as satellites and Doppler radar is all the NWS needs to give accurate warning information. This is simply not true. When it comes to getting accurate information during potentially severe weather, it’s hard to beat the human eye. Radar and satellites do not see a tornado. They see indications that a tornado or other severe weather MAY be occurring. Only the human eye can actually see a tornado, damaging winds, flooding, or large hail.
Another question we hear is “What is ham radio good for during severe weather?” Simply stated, we feel it is the most efficient communications channel available for reporting important information to the National Weather Service, quickly. Telephones are inefficient since only one report can be taken at a time. The first caller gets through on the line even if a more important call is pending. Ham radio is like a party line. Everyone on the frequency hears everything. This makes it easy to take several reports in quick succession. It also allows reports to be prioritized.
Also see the About SKYWARN page at the NWS Wilmington Office web site.