SKYWARN Operations

The full SKYWARN Policies and Procedures (SOG) can be opened here: Pinellas-SKYWARN-SOG

The following on this page is only a summary of the complete document.


The normal PCACS repeaters, backup and fall back simplex frequencies are used and found at: Primary & Contingency Frequencies


The sole purpose of the SKYWARN® program in Pinellas County, Florida is to provide the National Weather Service Forecast Office at Tampa Bay with timely and accurate reports of severe weather phenomena so that a timely warning can be issued to the public of impending dangerous weather including tornadoes, hail, and damaging thunderstorm winds.

Activation Triggers

Pinellas SKYWARN® will activate when one or more of the following events take place.

  • A Tornado watch has been issued for Pinellas County.
  • A Tornado warning has been issued for Pinellas County.
  • A Severe Thunderstorm warning has been issued for Pinellas County.
  • A Tropical Storm warning has been issued for Pinellas County.
  • A Severe weather event has been reported by a trained SKYWARN® spotter.
  • The Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Tampa Bay Forecast Office has requested activation.
  • During annual statewide Tornado Drills.
  • During Pinellas ACS/ARES® drills and exercises.

Operational Conditions

The SKYWARN Net is divided into Four operational conditions, as follows:

  • Condition Black: Pinellas SKYWARN® will be activated to level 1, BLACK, when a tornado or funnel cloud is reported by a trained SKYWARN® spotter. While in Condition BLACK, ONLY REPORTS OF TORNADOES and FUNNEL CLOUDS WILL BE ACCEPTED by the NCS. No other reports of severe weather should be sent to the NCS until after the net reverts to level 2, RED.
  • Condition Red: Pinellas SKYWARN® will be activated to level 2, RED, when a severe weather warning has been issued by the NWS or severe weather has been reported by a trained SKYWARN® spotter. This is a directed net, and all traffic should be directed to the net control station. Net check-ins will not be requested. Net traffic should be limited to reports of severe weather only.
  • Condition Yellow: Pinellas SKYWARN® will be activated to level 3, YELLOW, when weather that has the potential to be severe is approaching or has entered the county, but no warning has been issued by the NWS and no severe weather has yet been reported by a trained SKYWARN® spotter. Although net check-ins are accepted during level 3 activation, this is an informal net in which other amateur traffic may be passed and is considered a Watch Net. Any station may call any other station without the permission of the NCS.
  • Condition Green: No Severe weather exists – Normal Operations

Reporting Protocol

The following severe weather events should always be reported by SKYWARN® spotters.

  • Rotational Phenomena:
    • Tornadoes: Report observed damage, duration of time on ground, start/end times, width, travel distance.
    • Waterspouts: You must observe rotation
    • Funnel Clouds: Report on organization, persistence and rotation.
    • Wall Clouds: Report if clouds are rotating and how long they have existed. (Report this over the radio, do not report to the NWS 800 number).
  • Hail: Report the size of the largest stone and any damage. To estimate size, compare hail to well known objects such as coins or balls but not to marbles.
  • Damaging Winds or winds 45 mph or greater: Report estimated or measured wind speed and wind damage. A description of moving objects or damage is useful.
    • For tree damage: What is the height and diameter of the branch, limb or tree that was broken or blown down? Was the tree healthy or decayed? What type of tree was damaged, e.g., hardwood or softwood?
    • Details to submit for damage to structures: Is the damage to a well-built structure or a weak outbuilding? What is the main building material for the structure: wood, brick, metal, concrete, etc.? If the structure is a mobile home, was it anchored down?
  • Heavy rains: Rain fall accumulations of 2 or more inches in a single hour or 4 or more inches in a single day.
  • Flooding (Coastal, or Inland – rain caused): Report approximate water depth, whether it is standing water or flowing, whether it is rising, falling, or staying steady in depth, if there is any damage, if the area is known to be flood prone.
  • Damage that is directly weather related
  • Your report on the SKYWARN® net should identify yourself and TEL us about the situation (Time, Event, Location):
  • Who: FCC Call sign; SKYWARN® Spotter number (if applicable) or if SKYWARN® trained.
  • Time the event occurred (not when you make your report)
  • Event you have witnessed: the specific weather event from above
  • Location the event occurred: (not necessarily your location) Use well known roads and cross streets or landmarks and direction of travel if applicable.
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