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Domestic Preparedness
Skywarn Plan

SKYWARN Plan for Van Buren Co.     Helpful Hints for Spotters   
Useful Telephone Numbers      Local Amateur Radio Frequencies   
Severe Weather Report Criteria     Weekly Skywarn Net Reports

Click on blue underlined links for more information.

SKYWARN Plan for Van Buren County
Office of Domestic Preparedness
Van Buren County Sheriff Office
Sheriff Dale Gribler | Lt. Robert Kirk

This Skywarn Plan has been made with the cooperation of the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office, the Emergency Management Division, the Black River Amateur Radio Club, the Van Buren County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), the Van Buren County Radio Amateur Communication Emergency Service (RACES) and other local citizens.

This plan is to serve as a guideline for conducting Skywarn operations between volunteer weather spotters and other public and private organizations that are involved with severe weather responses.

This plan is based on information collected from various sources, which includes the Berrien County Skywarn Plan, the Emergency Management Division of the Michigan State Police, and the National Weather Service.

As a matter of protocol, police officers, fire fighters, and other governmental personnel will report their observations to their respective agencies. All other volunteers will report their observations to the listed amateur radio operator (Ham). Volunteers should refrain from calling 911 or the Van Buren County Central Dispatch’s number since most of the telephone lines will be busy during a severe weather situation. The National Weather Service in Grand Rapids has a toll free telephone number for reporting severe weather information however; this number could be busy due to other volunteers making their reports.

Volunteers should contact an amateur radio operator (Ham) to report their observations.

A call up list is included in this plan. Check the list for the Ham operator nearest your home or location. Then pick two other Ham operators as back ups to this first one.

Contact the Ham operator ahead of the severe weather season and tell that operator who you are and that you may be calling him in the future to report your observations.

Become familiar with the reporting forms in this plan ahead of time, this will enable you to make faster and more accurate reports.

In case of a severe weather event, volunteer spotters may be called into action in the following manner:

  • The National Weather Service may request a NET.
  • The Van Buren County Central Dispatch may request a NET.
  • Area Police and Fire Departments may request a NET.
  • Any volunteer may call up a NET by contacting a Ham through the call up tree.
  • A Ham operator may call up a NET through the local repeater on the 2-meter frequency of 147.36/. 96 MHZ. Volunteers can program this frequency into their scanners.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) governs the use of Amateur radio frequencies. For this reason, licensed Amateur radio operators must follow FCC rules and regulations concerning the proper use of their radio equipment and frequencies.

Volunteers who would like further information concerning Ham operations should contact a licensed Amateur radio operator in their area.

Here are just a few of the many safety tips that should be practiced when acting as a spotter.

  • There is a potential for injury when using a telephone when a thunderstorm is in your area; lighting could strike the telephone lines.
  • Never place yourself in harms way, if you can’t make your report in a safe manner, then don’t do it.
  • If you are going to your spotter location, make sure someone, (i.e. family, friend) knows where you are and how to find you if it is necessary.

Items helpful for spotters

  • The Skywarn plan and calling tree
  • Battery operated AM/FM radio or a scanner
  • Something to write with and on
  • Rain gear
  • Flashlight/batteries
  • Area map
  • Rain gauge
  • The Weather Channel or local TV weather
  • Wind speed guide
  • First Aid kit
  • Clock
  • Food and drink
  • Telephone
  • Binoculars
  • Spotter Guide
  • Identification

Useful telephone numbers

  • Emergency call 911
  • Van Buren County Central Dispatch non emergency 269-657-3101
  • Van Buren County Emergency Management Division 269-657-7786
  • Michigan State Police, Paw Paw Post 269-657-5551
  • Michigan State Police, South Haven Post 269-637-2125
  • National Weather Service, Grand Rapids 1 800-647-3836

Local Amateur Radio Frequencies

  • Primary Repeater 147.36 MHz
  • Secondary Frequencies 146.52 simplex or 146.46 simplex
  • Liaison to NWS, Grand Rapids 145.47 MHz
  • Liaison to Kalamazoo County 147.600 MH
  • Liaison to Berrien County 146.82 MHz, 146.72 MHz

Severe Weather Report Criteria



  • Time
  • Location
  • Movement/Speed
  • Damage/Injuries
  • Time
  • Location
  • Direction/Speed



  • Time
  • Location
  • Direction/Speed
  • Hail and its size
  • Peak wind speed and direction
  • Damage/Injuries
  • Flooding
  • Rain Fall amount per ¼ hour, ½ hour or minutes
  • Time
  • Location
  • Direction/Speed
  • Frequency of strikes a minute
  • Distance away
  • Lightning type (i.e. cloud to ground, etc.)
  • Lightning form (i.e. streaks, heat, forked, etc.)
  • Damage/Injuries



  • Store bought or professional model
  • Time of reading
  • Amount of rainfall during a specific time period
  • Time of occurrence
  • Area Affected (i.e. city blocks, roadways, fields, etc.)
  • Is water rising, steady or receding
  • Damage/Injuries
Other Weather Conditions that can be Reported


  • Heavy snow amount, 6 inches or more in 12 hours, 8 inches or more in 24 hours
  • Snow flurries that are intermittent and reduce visibility
  • Snow squalls that are brief but intense and usually have high winds
  • Blowing or drifting snow accompanied with poor visibility
  • Blizzard conditions that have sustained wind speeds of 35mph or more and sustained snowfall that is expected to last for hours
  • Location
  • Wind direction and speed


(Warnings are wind speeds of 40mph or more and are expected to last for at least one hour.)

  • Time of beginning and ending
  • Locations affected
  • Involving snowfall and amounts
  • Roads closed
  • Damage/Injuries
Guidelines for Estimating Wind Speed / MPH Effects

Calm No wind, smoke rises vertically.

1-3 Smoke drifts.

4-7 Wind is noticeable on face, wind vane moves, leaves rustle on trees.

8-12 Wind extends light flag. Noticeable force when facing wind. Leaves and small branches are in constant motion.

13-18 Wind raises dust and loose paper. Dry snow begins drifting. Small branches moving.

19-24 Wind is noticeable and uncomfortable. Dust and snow are stirred up to a height of several feet. Small trees begin to sway

25-30 Loose clothing flaps vigorously. Large branches are in motion. Whistling is heard in utility wires. Umbrellas used with difficulty.

31-40 Difficult to walk into wind. Large Trees in motion. Small branches brake off.

41-50 Walking into wind requires considerable effort. Limbs up to a ½ inch brake off. Large rotted branches may blow down and shingles may blow off roofs. Visibility decreases and loose lawn furniture or garbage cans blow away.

51-60 Exterior doors are hard to open. Driving is difficult. Limbs up to 2 inches break off. Metal lawn buildings blow over. TV antennas and chimneys may be damaged. Rotted trees blown down. Many shingles blow away. Awnings blow off mobile homes.

61-70 Large limbs up to 6 inches break off and damage to power, phone and cable line occur. Pole buildings are destroyed. Some trees are blown over.

71-110 Some roof surfaces peeled off. Windows break. Mobile homes pushed or overturned. Moving cars blown off roads.

111-160 Mobile homes destroyed. Roofs torn off framed buildings. Railroad boxcars blown over. Weak buildings destroyed. Large healthy trees blown down.

161-210 Roofs and some walls torn off frame houses. Trains over turned. Cars lifted off ground. Steel frame warehouse hanger type structures torn. Some rural buildings completely destroyed.

211-260 Whole frame houses leveled. Steel buildings badly damaged. Cars and trains thrown or rolled some distance. Medium sized missiles (tree limbs, wooden beams, poles, building material, glass, etc) fly through the air.

261+ Entire houses tossed off foundations. Steel reinforced concrete buildings badly damaged. Large missiles fly, such as cars, trucks, busses, roofs and buildings.

Weekly SkyWarn Net Reports
  • Local Weather
  • Clouds
  • Winds, direction and speed
  • Temperature
  • Rainfall amounts
  • Snowfall Amounts
  • Barometer reading
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