The NWS has offices at many locations around the country. The office that serves Western Michigan is located at the Kent County International Airport near Grand Rapids, Michigan. The doppler radar, called NEXRAD (NEXt generation RADar) is located on the grounds of their facility. NEXRAD was designed to improve detection of severe storms so that the NWS can provide more accurate and timely warnings to the public.
Click here to send a Severe Weather Report to the Grand Rapids NWS Office
SKYWARN is an integral part of this detection and warning process. NEXRAD will help locate and track potentially severe and dangerous storms, but it is SKYWARN spotters that report what the storm is actually doing (trees blown down, a tornado on the ground, flood waters washing out a bridge, a dangerous glaze of ice on roads and wires). SKYWARN spotters are trained to spot tornados, funnel clouds, and severe thunderstorms. They are told how to report hail, strong winds, heavy rain, floods, and snow. Forecasters combine information from spotters with that of radar, satellite and other tools. This information is then used to provide appropriate warnings for communities in the path of the storm and to keep people informed about what is happening and what steps they may need to take to protect themselves.
Amateur radio operators (HAMS) are ideally equipped to contribute to the SKYWARN program. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), a public service organization of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) , consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty when disaster strikes or for public events. Additional information on Emergency Communications is contained in:
This means severe wx is possible i.e. tornadoes... large hail... dangerous lightning and damaging thunderstorm winds. It is not yet occurring in the area and is usually in effect for a large area of many different counties. The net activates and stands-by to relay information from the NWS to the Ham community. As storms develop... Hams will relay reports to NWS - Grand Rapids.
This means severe wx is imminent or occurring... and is usually issued for one or two counties at a time and lasts for 1-2 hours. This requires a directed... formal County net with reports feeding in from Liaison Stations to the NWS.
System activates upon request from the NWS for information... such as snowfall... icing... wind.... rainfall... rain/ice/snow line and of course any damage reports.