National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Hazardous Heat Across the Western U.S.; Heavy Rain and Flooding in the Southwest and Western Gulf Coast

Dangerous heat will persist over portions of interior California, the Great Basin, and the northern Rockies through Thursday. Heat will gradually spread into the northern Plains today. Across the western Gulf Coast, heavy to excessive rainfall will persist through mid-week. Additionally, the Southwest Monsoon will continue to bring a flash flooding threat to the Four Corners Region this week. Read More >

NWS Rapid City Skywarn Banner

What is SKYWARN®?

Every year; 10,000 severe thunderstorms with large hail and damaging winds, 5,000 floods, and more than 1,000 tornadoes occur across the United States. These events threaten lives and damage property. To help protect people from these dangerous storms, the National Weather Service (NWS) work with local public safety officials to establish SKYWARN® networks to obtain reliable real time reports of severe weather. Since the program started in the 1970s, the information provided by SKYWARN® spotters; coupled with Doppler radar, satellite, and other data; has enabled the NWS to issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and flash floods; which save lives.

Who Are SKYWARN® Severe Weather Spotters?

SKYWARN® spotters in northeastern Wyoming and western South Dakota include emergency response officials such as law enforcement officers and fire fighters who have direct communication with the Rapid City NWS office. Volunteers, including amateur radio operators and trained citizens, also provide essential information that assists the NWS in fulfilling its mission of issuing warnings for the protection of lives and property. Although SKYWARN® spotters provide essential information for all types of weather hazards, the main responsibility of a SKYWARN® spotter is to identify, describe, and report severe local storms.

Spotter Training Program

NWS meteorologists provide training to organizations and individuals participating in SKYWARN® to ensure they can identify and report severe storms safely. Both in-person and online classes are offered in the spring.

In-person Classes

Online Training

The Rapid City NWS offices offer spotter training classes by webinar during the spring. Classes last about an hour. Registration is required prior to attending the training! 

  • The 2024 virtual spotter training classes are over. Check back again next year!

The Cooperative Operational Meteorology Education and Training (COMET) offers an online Skywarn® Spotter Training course in two sections: "Role of the Skywarn® Spotter" and "Skywarn® Spotter Convective Basics". The course is designed for people interested in becoming storm spotters. While previously-trained Skywarn® spotters are not required to take it, it does provides additional background material not covered in the local classes. The course is free and each section takes one to two hours to complete. People interested in becoming spotters for the NWS can notify our office after completing the training.

Submit a Storm Report (click on link)



       Hail Size Chart

Click on the Hail Size Chart above for a printable full resolution version.


If you have questions or want additional information, contact the Rapid City NWS Meteorologist-in-Charge until our Warning Coordination Meteorologist position is filled.

Banner image courtesy Pat Gerdes