Skywarn in the Twin Cities has been around for nearly 40 years in various forms. Emerging from HF as Minnesota Amateur Weather Network in the late 1960s, the W.I.N.D.S. program was focused on Bloomington Emergency Management. In 1984, Irv Norling, then Director of Emergency Communications in the City of Bloomington, in a memo to Robert Heland (Unit 495) welcomed the Multi-county Skywarn team into the Bloomington Communications Group. A Multi-county Skywarn Net lead by a net control using call sign WCØAAA was established.Until 1992, Skywarn remained an informal organization involving the National Weather Service, the City of Bloomington represented by Charlie Kolar NØDCR, a police officer and the Bloomington Emergency Manager as well as Ramsey County Emergency Management and Homeland Security represented by Bill Hughes NØQHP. Since the mid 1980’s, a few dedicated volunteer meteorologists and Amateur Radio Operators worked year round. They trained and organized Amateur communications for 500 amateur radio operators in the seven county metro area. For awhile, some of meteorologists took a turn getting up before the sun, and writing their own severe weather outlook and read it to interested hams at 7am every morning during the severe weather season on the 146.85 repeater. Those involved included Dave Blair WBØYUC, Tom Nelson NØGQA, Dave Floyd KBØCIE, Mike Langfus NØJJL, Bob Adams KCØJJ, Rich Bann KAØBZK, Don Heppleman NØJOO and Donn Baker WA2VOI.Many of the core members moved on in their careers between 1991 and 1993. Don Heppleman led a series of meetings with a group of leaders from Bloomington Emergency Management, Ramsey County Department of Emergency Management, the National Weather Service, Bloomington RACES, Dakota County ARES/RACES, Carver County Radio Club, Anoka County Radio Club and Emergency Services, and Ramsey County ARES/RACES.
What emerged in 1993 was Metro Skywarn, a regional organization serving the 11 county metro area, newly conceived as a consortion of amateur radio, emergency management organizations and the National Weather Service. The idea was that a consortium of organization sending representatives would ensure the future of Metro Skywarn as an organization he new organization was co-chaired by Walt Marty NØRCY and Dave Johnson NØKBD. By the end of 1994 Metro Skywarn was on the path to incorporation.
Others involved in the 1990s included John Kelley NØTGY, Lynn DeLong NØCVI, Doug Reed NØNAS, Leland Helgerson WBØMLL, Matt Stepaniak NØTNL, Dave Zellman WBØYDF, Audrey Zellman NØOKX, Gene Clemens KBØMIP, Paul Emiott KØLAV, Jim Richardson WMØX, Bill Hughes NØQHP, Todd Krause KBØSGH, and Fred Fey K9LQQ. Millennial members added Curt KCØFQZ, Tim Arimond NØBYH. John Wetter KØWDJ, John Blood, Sandra Johnson KCØTSB, Steve Levens ABØYQ, Joe Chesney KCØGYJ, Kevin Huyek KB9WOB, Nick Elms WXØSVR, Lara Rodriquez WXØGRL, Mike McIlheran KØMWM, Kris Pierson KØKMP, David Gawboy KCØTRZ and Jeff Goodnuff WØKF.
Then 2010s brought the next generation of leaders, Theresa Caspers KCØGWW, Todd Megrund KØTSW, Sue Megrund KØTSM, Chris White NØCJW, Paul Johnson NØCRC, Howard Lund KCØWNL, David Riviera KØDJR (Webmaster) and Ryan Kelzenberg NØYFE.
Thanks to all the past leadership of Metro Skywarn. Without you all, none of this could have happened. For those of you I missed, I’m truly sorry. Let me know and I’ll add you to the list.
Metro Skywarn today is a consortium of Amateur and Government Public Service organizations and other individuals. Metro Skywarn’s mission is to provide trained amateur radio operators capable of making accurate reports of severe weather to the NWS. Metro Skywarn has focused it’s mission to serve the core counties of the Metro area, five counties of Anoka, Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, Scott, Washington and Carver. In addition, Metro Skywarn has a collaborative agreement with Wright Co. Skywarn. Organizations which send representatives include (but are not limited to) Bloomington Communications Group, Ramsey County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Twin Cities Radio Club, Twin Cities FM Club, Metro Area Repeater Association, Wright County Skywarn, the National Weather Service, Maple Grove Radio Club, and Ramsey County RCES.
Metro Skywarn is a RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) organization of volunteer Amateur Radio operators trained in emergency communications and severe weather spotting. Authorized and regulated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), RACES organizations provide essential communications and warning links for state and local governments and the Red Cross during emergencies.
Trained Skywarn observers provide the Weather Service with accurate, and timely reports. If the NWS infers severe weather from radar and confirms it with spotter information, it then notifies local authorities who then can activate Civil Defense sirens. The news media receives notification so they can make reports on local broadcast stations. The volunteer spotters each spend hundreds of dollars for their equipment and gas, and together contribute thousands of man hours of volunteer time each year as spotters and net control operators. Additional expenses and time are spent in training and travel. All are Amateur Radio operators licensed by the Federal Communications Commission.
The NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Todd Krause, and NWS Skywarn Coordinator, John Wetter, put together a training program for weather spotters. Metro Skywarn adds operations training. Nearly 600 spotters are trained every year. Spotters are trained to identify severe weather and to report observed weather to Metro Skywarn Net Operators. Metro Skywarn develops the net procedures, trains net personnel, and plans and coordinates with ARES/RACES and Emergency Management organizations and repeater owners to put together several teams of operators prepared to run Skywarn nets on local Amateur Radio repeaters.
Before the 1970s, tornado outbreaks were known to kill dozens and sometimes hundreds. Minnesota statistics were not quite as staggering but bad none-the-less. Since tornado education for the general public became a priority in the late 1960s, the rate of deaths and injures have dropped precipitously. Skywarn deserves some of the credit. Again, thanks to all the volunteers that make Metro Skywarn work!