TYLER, Texas (KETK) – In Tyler, East Texans gathered Tuesday night for the first in-person Skywarn meeting in our area since the pandemic.

The National Weather Service created Skywarn with the help of other organizations to train anyone interested in learning how to spot severe weather. In this year alone, we’ve seen a lot of severe weather in East Texas.

“We never really get a break all year round here in East Texas. It’s a really important area to have a good Skywarn spotter network,” said Charlie Woodrum, the warning coordination meteorologist.

There have been countless tornadoes, such as the EF-2 storm in Crockett that left behind destroyed buildings and homes. Most recently in Winona an unexpected tornado came and went quickly, but left behind damage in neighborhoods and schools in August.

Woodrum with the National Weather Service says it’s people like this group at the Skywarn meeting that can make a difference when severe weather strikes. And, it did in Winona’s case.

“It was actually an emergency manager who got information from someone who was spotting the tornado that let us know that it was occurring because we couldn’t see that rotation very well on the radar. That prompted our tornado warning with that storm,” said Woodrum.

When you join Skywarn, you learn how to detect severe weather in East Texas and how to safely respond when danger strikes. As a spotter, you’re helping the National Weather Service with critical information that can save lives.

“Once they hear that the tornado is actually occurring from a report that we get from a spotter, then those people may be more likely to take action to protect themselves,” said Matt Hemingway, senior meteorologist for the NWS in Shreveport.

Because it’s impossible for the NWS to have eyes everywhere. It’s your eyes that help around the East Texas area and beyond. The program has been around since the 1970’s.

Training is free to become a spotter and takes about two hours.