ESRL Global Systems Division

Citizen Observers Provide Important Weather Information During a Tornado

The APRSWXNET/Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP) is a group of interested amateur radio operators and citizen observers, organized by FSL, who contribute real-time weather data via packet radio and the internet for use in NOAA activities. This volunteer program had a recent notable success. On April 28, 2002, atmospheric conditions in close proximity to the first documented "F5" tornado (this may be changed by reports not yet received) in the state of Maryland were measured and observed by three members of the CWOP program. Greg Jones (K3GJ) was up and reporting prior to and during the tornado that struck La Plata, MD. He was able to record a 125-mph wind gust before losing power. Just upstream in Potomac Heights, MD, another CWOP member, Joe Sartori (WB3IUT) also "live" during the event, received 3-inch sized hail but not the direct hit of the winds.

The Jones and Sartori stations provide the only routinely reporting weather data available in Charles County (the closest METAR station is 19 miles north at Andrews AFB). Their storm reports have been forwarded to the local NWS Weather Forecast Office in Sterling, VA. Further downstream in Mechanicsville, Northern St Mary's County, MD, J.D. Delany (WX3SMD) was also online and reporting prior to and during the event. Mr. Delaney observed an estimated gust to 40 mph as the tornadic storm roared by to the north of his location. All three APRSWXNET/CWOP members provided valuable information during this historic tornadic event and should be commended for their efforts.

All of the contributed data are available to the general public over the NOAA/FSL mesonet web page and the Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System (MADIS).

Contact information

Dave Helms, NWS
Russ Chadwick, FSL
Patty Miller, FSL