Storm Spotters

In Longview, the office of Emergency Management relies on Gregg County Emergency Communications (GCEC), a Gregg County-based organization of amateur radio operators, for severe weather information. The City has provided an area of the EOC specifically for GCEC Storm Spotters where severe weather information is gathered for emergency management personnel for dissemination to the public. From this area, storm information is gathered from other East Texas storm spotter groups to provide a broad area coverage of each severe weather event.

Storm spotters come from all walks of life ­doctors, carpenters, lawyers, bakery workers, plumbers, just about any profession you care to name. And their interest stems from two areas ­an interest in weather and an interest in serving their communities. Spotters are organized loosely around SKYWARN, a volunteer program developed many years ago by the National Weather Service to train and organize spotters. Spotters are more formally organized around local emergency management agencies or other local organizations such as amateur radio clubs who work directly with the spotters in their local communities. Public service personnel from fire departments, rescue squads, and law enforcement agencies are also active in severe storm spotting activities.

Storm spotters go through vigorous training provided by the National Weather Service to gain an understanding of storm structure. The training includes details on the structure of the most severe thunderstorms known as supercells, exposure to visual clues that are often present prior to and during tornado events, and information on tornado safety and reporting procedures.

National Weather Service offices, like the one in Shreveport, LA, have excellent working relationships with the amateur radio operators in Longview. Working with permanent radio equipment in the Shreveport office, radio operators can talk with storm spotters throughout the city warning area stretching across numerous East Texas counties. This communication network often provides rapid reports of severe weather as it occurs. And it can provide essential communication with emergency management agencies and others when severe weather does happen.