kywarn, an all volunteer organization that supports the National Weather Service Forecast Office in San Diego, will be the topic of next Thursday’s, Oct. 8, Mile High Radio Club meeting in the conference room at the Idyllwild Fire Station.

“The public is always welcome,” said Bill Tell, MHRC president.

Ed Sherman, the Riverside County coordinator for Southwest California Skywarn will discuss the program and its relationship with the NWS.

Skywarn was started in the 1970s to aid the NWS during severe weather. Although Skywarn spotters provide essential information for all types of weather hazards, the main responsibility of a Skywarn spotter is to identify and describe severe local storms.

The first step to becoming a Skywarn spotter is experience as a weather spotter. Both programs are sponsored by the NWS. The critical difference is the Skywarn spotters are more concern about the conditions, which the current weather is creating, not simply what the weather is doing. Their hazard reports, coupled with Doppler radar technology, and other data, have enabled NWS to issue more timely and accurate warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods.

Anyone with an interest in public service and access to communication, such ham radio, may join the Skywarn program, according to Sherman. And he stressed they are not storm chasers.

A Garner Valley resident, Sherman will get in his four-wheel drive SUV and drive to Humber Park to measure the snow depth in order to report it to the NWS in San Diego.

“It’s something the NWS needs — ground truth,” Sherman said. “It’s real time on the ground data, not radar. We can verify the conditions. These citizen volunteers help confirm the situation for San Diego.”

And Sherman added that more Skywarn spotters are needed and it is not necessary to be an amateur radio operator. About 225 volunteers are in the Riverside County unit, the majority of those are weather spotters.

In Riverside County, the MHRC’s Mountain Radio Network, with repeaters in Pine Cove and on Santa Rosa Peak, is a critical link connecting the eastern and western portions of the county, especially in severe weather, according to Tell.

“The new network includes the desert,” Sherman said. “Now it is truly countywide — valley, mountain and desert.”

In addition to linking the desert with the valley to the west, the local ham operators (RACES or Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) are important cogs when a disaster, such as the Mountain Fire, occurs on the Hill. They serve the incident command unit and can help Idyllwild Fire stay connected, if their communication system falters, Tell added.

In addition to Skywarn, Sherman and Tell will offer a brief discussion of preparedness, including preparation of a plan and an emergency kit.

Sherman has 40 years of experience with public safety. Much of that has been in San Diego County, but now he is a Garner Valley resident and offers automated weather data on the web at