Welcome to our spotter information page! We created this page for several reasons, but our primary reason was to provide information to all spotters and chasers about severe storm spotting techniques, and what they should report into the National Weather Service. Also, we will provide some handy things to download, and have when out spotting and/or chasing.
Since "SKYWARN" was established back on 18 June of 1971, it became recognized as a "national" agency that consisted of spirited and dedicated individuals, who volunteer their time and efforts to monitor local weather conditions in their respective locations, then report what they observe into the National Weather Service offices nearest them. Each state began to establish local Skywarn groups who could better handle situations locally. Today, Skywarn is still a national agency, but also a local agency (where established in each state). In addition, local ham radio groups, emergency government officials, fire and police departments, amateur radio groups, and others have also teamed up to perform similar duties of spotting and reporting severe weather elements. Together, Skywarn spotters have formed the "backbone" of the severe local storm warning process by providing critical "ground-truth" information to the National Weather Service, all in an effort to help with vital warning decisions, and save lives as well.

All information and supplimental documentation found on this page is for educational purposes, and should not be used for any other purposes. If you have any questions about Skywarn, how to become a spotter, or training requirements, please contact your local office of the National Weather Service.


Skywarn groups across Wisconsin have devised a "code" system they follow prior to and after activation of local groups. Usually, but not always, group activation comes after a tornado or severe thunderstorm watch has been issued by the Storm Prediction Center, which covers the local area. All spotters should become familiar with any specific alert codes, like the ones shown below, and what they mean.
Note: the following table shows the alert codes for "MidWest Severe Storm Tracking and Response Center". Not every spotter group will use these codes, so be sure to check with the local group you are involved with, or plan to join about the alerts they use.

ALL CLEAR - No severe weather expected over the next 72 hours.
HEADS UP - Severe weather is possible within the next 72 hours.
STANDDOWN - Severe weather is possible within the next 24 hours.
READY FOR ACTIVATION - Severe weather appears likely, watch issued.
ACTIVATION OF NETWORKS - All local spotter groups formally activated at this point.

Notes on codes shown above:

The following tables will illustrate (based on the current severe outlook), the spotter "Call to Action", or spotter groups level of readiness for activation in times of a pending severe weather threat, and LEM or "Local Emergency Management" coordnation with the National Weather Service. This will illustrate the degree, or "chances" for holding an emergency conference between the agencies prior to a significant severe weather event.

Spotters call to action statement
LEM coordination for conference with NWS
None. All clear.
No action needed.
Caution! Activation unlikely, but spotters should be alert.
Coordination is highly unlikely.
Extreme Caution is advised! Activation is possible. Spotters should stay fully alert!
Coordination is possible, but this will depend on magnitude of weather expected.
Activation Requested! Spotters should deploy to their assigned locations.
Coordination is likely, or an emergency conference is scheduled.

The following table is derived from our latest convective outlook which is currently in effect. This information will change as updates are issued.
TIMING OF STORM INITIATION None After 10:00 AM After 1:00 PM After 4:00 PM After 7:00 PM Storms In Progress

We recently (2015) revised and updated our existing 3 tier categorical severe weather risk levels to a 5 tier risk. This was done to simplify the risks into an easier to use format. It's also a much improved way of communicating severe weather potential for our clients and others who use our products. Listed below are the existing 5 tier categorical risk levels.

The National Weather Service has prepared a 3 page document which lays down what spotters should and should not do when reporting severe weather. We have rewritten and uploaded it to our site, so you can download a copy for yourself. We also have a few other handy documents and booklets here as well. All spotters should have copies of these items. These items are in PDF format.

Spotter Do's and Don'ts NWS Green Bay
Spotter Quick Guide NWS Milwaukee/Sullivan
Spotter Report Form NWS Milwaukee/Sullivan
Complete Spotter's Guide Booklet NOAA/NWS/SKYWARN
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