Channel 19

Todd Dills

Trucker Weather Watch storm spotters want you

| May 18, 2011

Former long-hauler and current Traffic Control Supervisor/Driver for Stripe Rite, based near Seattle, Sean Kiaer in April 2006 was a front-line witness to the formation of a tornado in Tennessee. He called 911 from the cab at the time to report the storm, which was headed directly for the town of Newbern, Tenn., but realized his own and the 911 operator’s limitations in getting information about the tornado out to the people who needed it most, namely Newbern residents and the National Weather Service.

After learning the storm ended up killing 16 people, including children, in the town, he began charting a course that led to the beginning, later in 2006, of the Trucker Weather Watch group. Close to 20 members strong, the group is made up of drivers who’ve gone through official National Weather Service SkyWarn (or Severe Weather Reporting Network) training as severe weather spotters.

Kiaer had identified a real need in his initial assessment of the SkyWarn network, one that truckers could fill: “The biggest issue that the NWS has,” he says, is that, though the network is huge, “when do most people go to sleep? After 7-to-9 at night, there’s a huge gap, no spotters to be found. They’re all asleep. And during the day, the majority of us are working – in the factories, warehouses, lawyer’s offices — so most spotters’ eyes aren’t really attuned to the weather.”

For the nation’s truck drivers, it’s a different story altogether. “The trucking industry is there,” Kaier says. “We’re out there in the weather 24/7. What better industry to put in to the Severe Weather Reporting Network than trucking?”

Initially, getting drivers trained proved to be difficult, as classes were only offered at particular times at National Weather Service satellite offices around the country. “That is why, after many months of discussion,” says Kaier, online training is now available. He describes a considerable personal effort put in — “visiting National Weather Service offices around the country – I even spoke to the director of NOAA myself at one point,” he says – to get the new training out and available. “From NOAA on down to the National Weather Service,” he adds, “the upper echelons are very excited about this.” Kiaer says they’ve unofficially endorsed Trucker Weather Watch as a SkyWarn partner organization, and official recognition he expects soon. “All of our members go through the training.” To be an official SkyWarn spotter, he notes, members must still go through on-location training at a local NWS office.

Now, the group is looking for new members. To request an application to receive the training — “18 classes that take about an hour each,” Kaier says — send an email to him at truckerweatherwatch@gmail.com.

Find more information at the organization’s website and on their Facebook page.

  • Sean Kiaer (President, Trucker Weather Watch

    Todd, Thank you for the story. I can’t emphisize enough how important it is that the trucking community has a wonderful opertunity here to help better our image. also another important bit of information is that this program really brings attention to severe weather and how it affects everyone. There are over 1000 tornados every year but there are other types of severe weather that affect all of us. Severe winter weather, flooding, Etc… The Trucker Weather Watch progragm teaches more than what to look for and how to report it but it also teaches and emphisizes SAFETY.
    Thank You again for the story and helping get the word out.

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  • Randall C. Rainey

    im interested in taking the training

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  • george r. richards

    send me the info to sign up. be glad to do…. george

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  • mousekiller

    If you live in an area that has a ham club for amateur radio they can help in getting you qualified also. Same classes but more than likely easier to attend. KC area has several large ham clubs . Being a ham operator has its advantages in weather spotting as many hams on bases are in direct contact with the weather service and able to relay info from spotters efficiently.. Also no dependence on the grid if worse comes to worse and power is down for cell phones.

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