National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Reporting Severe Weather

Reporting severe weather is essential! Regardless of the reporting method, each report must include the time & location of the event (and direction looking if applicable). Pictures tell a thousand words, but not when and where the weather occurred! If you do send photos, please let us know if you grant permission for us to use them in future spotter talks and outreach presentations.

How to Report:

Online: Use our online report form! For reporting tornadoes, please use our 1-800-667-1218 telephone line.

Email: - A great way to include pictures & video.

Telephone: 1-800-667-1218 - Must have been through a spotter training course to use this line! Refer to info received during spotter training.

Facebook: Send a report to our Facebook page.

Twitter: Tweet us your reports by including the #ndwx, #mnwx or #nwsfgf hashtags or send them directly to @NWSGrandForks.

What to Report:

With any report, please include your location (city or distance from city, street intersection, lat./lon.), the time of the event, and who you are (public, spotter #, law enforcement, etc.)



  • Distance & direction from your location
  • Movement (tornado direction & speed)
  • Impacts: Damage, injuries, or deaths
  • Tornado Behavior: Growing larger? Roping out?

Wall Clouds & Funnel Clouds

  • Wall cloud: Rotating? Persistent?
  • Funnel Cloud: How far to the ground
  • Visible rotation with the funnel?
  • Dust or debris below the funnel?
    (if so, you have a tornado!)


  • Diameter of the largest hailstone (estimated or measured)
  • DO NOT report marble-sized hail!! Marbles vary widely in size
  • Damage to windows, cars, crops, etc.
Hail Size Inches
 Pea 1/4
 Dime 1/2
 Penny 3/4
 Nickel 7/8
 Quarter 1
 Half Dollar 1 1/4
 Ping Pong Ball 1 1/2
 Golf Ball 1 3/4
 Hen Egg 2
 Tennis Ball 2 1/2
 Baseball 2 3/4
 Softball 4
 Grapefruit 4 1/2

Damaging Winds

  • Wind speed (estimated or measured)
  • Damage to trees, power lines, and structures
  • Trees: Diameter of limbs snapped off and health of tree (old or rotten?)
Designation Description
<1 Calm Smoke rises vertically
1-3 Light air Smoke drift indicates wind direction
4-7 Light breeze Weather vane moves, leaves rustle
8-12 Light breeze Leaves and twigs in constant motion
13-18 Mod breeze Dust raised, small branches move
19-24 Fresh breeze Small trees sway
25-31 Strong breeze Large branches move
32-38 Moderate gale Whole trees move, walking affected
39-46 Fresh gale Twigs break off trees, walking difficult
47-54 Strong gale Minor structural damage
55-63 Whole gale Large tree branches break
64-74 Storm  Widespread damage

Flash Flooding & Heavy Rain

  • Flood Impacts: Roads, houses, etc.
  • Depth of the water (estimated--use references such as cars or buildings)
  • Is the water moving swiftly or slowly?
  • Damage: Roads washed out, etc.
  • Rainfall amounts & how quickly it fell

Snow & Ice

  • Amount: (measured or estimated) Take multiple measurements and average them if possible.
  • Damage or impacts such as downed power lines, snapped tree limbs, cars off the road, etc.



Outlooks, Watches & Warnings

Severe Weather Outlooks:

Day 1 outlook Day 2 outlook Day 3 outlook Days 4-8 outlook
Day 1 Outlook Day 2 Outlook Day 3 Outlook Days 4-8 Outlooks

Severe Weather Discussion, Watches, and Environmental Data:

Day 1 outlook Watches Activity Loop Mesoanalysis
Mesoscale Discussions Active Watches Outlook, Watches & Radar Mesoanalysis Data

SPC Sounding Analysis

Eastern ND, Northwest MN, and West Central Minnesota Weather and Storm Reports:

Radar Weather Story Storm Reports Storm Reports
Current Radar & Warnings Weather Story Today's Storm Reports Yesterday's Storm Reports
Skywarn logo
Severe Weather Awareness Weeks in 2024
Minnesota: April 8-12, TOR Drill Apr 11th North Dakota: Apr 22-26, TOR Drill Apr 25th


Access Field Guide: Weather Spotter Field Guide


Take FREE Online Courses: 

1. Role of the Skywarn Spotter

2. Skywarn Spotter Convective Basics

3. Skywarn Spotter Training




For more information about our warning program us at 
the National Weather Service Grand Forks, please contact:
NWS Grand Forks

Frequently Asked Questions About Skywarn

What is SKYWARN?

  • Skywarn (formed in the early 1970s) is the National Weather Service (NWS) program of volunteer severe weather spotters. Skywarn volunteers support their local community and government by providing the NWS with timely and accurate severe weather reports. These reports, when integrated with modern NWS technology, are used to inform communities of approaching severe weather. The focus of Skywarn (and of the NWS) is save lives and property.

    Since the mid 1990s, the WSR-88D (Doppler Weather Radar) has provided valuable information to area forecasters...with better detection of severe storm phenomena and more accurate and timely warnings. However, even with the advance in technology... "ground truth" is still a very important part of the warning process. "Ground truth" is what is actually occurring. Is the storm tornadic? Is it producing large hail? How about damaging winds? Most of the "ground truth" is provided by trained storm spotters (through Skywarn)...or the "eyes of the NWS."

     Who Are SKYWARN Severe Weather Spotters?

  •  SKYWARN spotters across North Dakota and Minnesota consist mainly of amateur radio operators, emergency response officials, and trained public responders. The vast majority of those involved are volunteers who provide this valuable public service. These Spotters donate their time and equipment to help us (the NWS) get warnings out to the public, and to get public reports of severe weather back to the NWS any means possible.

    Spotters are generally self-activating... meaning they pay attention to the latest Forecast, Convective Outlook, and Watch or Warning... then they observe and report on the occurrence of severe weather from wherever they may be located.

    How can I get involved?

  •  Every year the National Weather Service in Grand Forks conducts both "basic" and "advanced" spotter training classes. Individuals are taught the basics of thunderstorm development, storm structure, what constitutes severe weather, and how to report this information. Advanced classes consider more extreme storm features to look for and where to find them. Additional information on reporting and basic severe weather safety are also covered.

    Each class, Basic and Advanced, is a multi-media presentation which includes detailed video. Classes are typically scheduled back-to-back on the same evening. Each class typically takes around 70 minutes, with about a 15 minute break for questions and refreshments. New Spotters are encouraged to attend the Basic Class while veteran Spotters may chose to attend the Advanced Class. To find out when a class will be given near you, Click Here

Area Contacts for SkyWarn or Amateur Radio Information

Contact your local County Emergency Manager in North Dakota  or in Minnesota  for location and time of the SKYWARN training in your county this spring.

For additional information on the SKYWARN program, contact Jim Kaiser, FGF Warning Coordination Meteorologist at

The National Weather Service will typically issue a warning for one or both of the following reasons; Doppler radar detects severe weather or SKYWARN spotters report severe weather. If a warning is issued for your location, you are in danger and need to seek shelter.

The biggest supporters of the SKYWARN program are emergency response officials and amateur radio operators. One of the best ways to get involved is to talk with an amateur radio operator. If you have a scanner, tune in to a local amateur radio SKYWARN net (see list below) to get a feel for what is involved.

Amateur Radio SKYWARN Frequencies in:
Northwest Minnesota
  • Barnesville MN - 147.060+ MHz
  • Bemidji MN - 145.450- or 146.730- MHz
  • Crookston MN - 147.120+ MHz
  • Detroit Lakes MN - 146.820- MHz
  • Fergus Falls MN - 146.640- or 444.200+ MHz
  • Fisher MN - 146.700- MHz
  • Karlstad MN - 145.470- MHz 
  • Lengby MN - 147.270+ MHz
  • Northome MN - 146.760- MHz
  • Park Rapids MN - 147.300+ MHz
  • Thief River Falls MN - 146.850- MHz
  • Wadena MN - 147.330+ MHz 
  • Camp Wilderness MN - 147.390+ MHz
  • Wannaska MN - 147.090+ MHz 
  • Warroad MN - 147.090+ MHz
  • Williams MN - 147.000- MHz
Eastern North Dakota
  • Carrington ND - 146.670- MHz
  • Cavalier ND - 147.150+ or 446.525- MHz
  • Devils Lake ND - 146.880- MHz
  • Fargo ND - 145.350- (Tone 123) or 146.970- MHz
  • Grafton ND - 146.760- MHz 
  • Grandin ND - 146.760- MHz
  • Grand Forks ND - 146.940- (Tone 123) or 147.390+ MHz
  • Gwinner ND - 145.110- MHz
  • Horace ND - 146.715- or 443.750+ MHz
  • Leeds ND - 147.000- MHz
  • Lisbon ND - 147.000- MHz
  • Lakota ND - 146.820- MHz
  • Langdon ND - 146.790- or 441.525+ MHz
  • Maddock ND - 147.240+ or 442.250+ MHz
  • Mayville ND - 146.910- MHz
  • Petersburg ND - 146.820- or 443.950+ MHz
  • Rock Lake ND - 147.300+ MHz
  • Valley City ND - 146.790- MHz 
  • Wahpeton ND - 147.375+ or 443.800+ MHz

Most of these sites can be linked together.  In times of severe weather, this "link" allows amateur radio operators at the NWS in Grand Forks to communicate with those directly affected by the storm.  The callsign for the NWS in Grand Forks is N0GF.   Amateur radio operators are a vital part of the NWS severe weather warning program.

Amateur Radio Clubs

Amateur Radio Links

Spotter Training

The National Weather Service (NWS) and local county emergency managers host spotter training classes across eastern North Dakota and Northwest Minnesota every spring. These in-person spotter training classes are offered across many counties across the area. Every county in the NWS Grand Forks county warning area will have the option for an in-person spotter training class at least every other year.  In addition to in-person sessions, three (3) virtual sessions will be offered in April and early May.

Both in-person and virtual training sessions are entirely free; and open to new & seasoned spotters alike.

Spotter talks are open to the public on a first come, first serve basis. No prior registration is required. The schedule at the bottom of the page includes all talks that have been scheduled to date. Scheduling usually takes place in February and March.

***If you have completed spotter training, and wish to become a registered storm spotter with the NWS Grand Forks office,

please fill out this linked form:   Spotter Registration Form


In-Person Spotter Presentation Details

Multimedia presentation containing information about identifying & reporting severe weather, spotter safety, severe weather climatology in ND/MN, thunderstorm structure and threats, and more.


Runs 60 to 90 minutes in length, is open to the public, and free of charge. No prior registration is required.


Instructors are NWS Meteorologists - Questions are encouraged and welcome!




Virtual Classes Available - See Dates Below!

Join the class at the scheduled time via the link below.


Class Dates


Virtual Spotter Training Joining Info


         Thursday, April 18th - 1pm to 3pm

         Thursday, April 25th - 10am to 12pm

         Thursday, May 2nd - 6pm to 8pm

*No registration is needed, open to the public and groups.

Google account not needed for participation. 



Or dial: ‪(US) +1 629-888-0866‬ PIN: ‪564 335 537‬#
More phone numbers:





2024 Spotter Training Schedule

Please click on calendar entry below to view more information about the training session.