National Weather Service Gives Tips on How to Spot Severe Storms Safely

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JOHNSTON, Iowa – The National Weather Services offers classes to get people storm spotting certified.

There are both in-person and online courses that teach people how to stay safe while looking for a storm.

National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Chad Hahn said regardless of how people report information they are looking for a time and location of the weather event.

“Ultimetly we don’t want folks to put themselves in harms way when it comes to spotting severe weather. We really want them to spot safely from their location and in order to do that you can be weather aware and understand where the storm is at, where it is headed and again spot safely for there location. Not go into a car to get out ahead of the storm,” Hahn said.

Hahn said the National Weather Service will send out warnings based on radar and reports from the ground.

A picture or video can be helpful when sending information to the National Weather Service.

Some do’s when chasing a storm include always having a partner for safety, remain calm, have a watch, pencil and phone to track the severe weather, etc.

Some don’ts when chasing a storm include not getting in the way of first responders doing their job, don’t assume you know everything, don’t assume you have a tornado just because something looks like a funnel cloud, etc.

Storms to report include: tornadoes, hail, flash flooding, heavy rain, wall clouds, funnel clouds, damaging winds, snow and ice.

Hahn said the primary tool for spotting a storm is looking at radar.

Hail is a large indicator of how strong a storm can be. If sending a report of hail for example, it is important to use a coin or ball as a size-description.

“Certainly, we are trying to provide the most advanced warnings to people and citizens of central Iowa. In order to do that, we want to focus on the impactful hail. Typically, the weaker the thunderstorm will produce the smaller hail and the stronger storms will produce the larger more impactful hail,” Hahn said.

Hahn said people should not drive through rising water during flash flooding or flooding, because they do not know how deep it is. It is not safe.

Ways to send a report include:

  • Email:
  • Text: (515) 240-5515
  • Telephone: 1 (800) SKYWARN – must have gone through severe weather spotting training to use this line.
  • Facebook page
  • Twitter: use hashtags #iawx or #nwsdmx to @NWSDesMoines
  • mPing: send reports from your location using this smartphone app


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