Background & Mission

Our mission is three-fold. To provide severe weather education and preparedness information to the public through

  1. an annual symposium which brings severe weather experts to our community,
  2. the Family Weatherfest which provides K-12 weather and science educational exhibits
  3. provide severe weather preparedness information throughout the year at our website.
The underlying theme for all CPSWS and Family Weatherfest events is "Surviving the Storms". Exhibitors and Severe Weather Experts are brought in to each event to touch upon this theme, and its varying aspects. One unique aspect of the CPSWS and Family Weatherfest has been its ability to bring together different organizations and agencies under one roof to promote its underlying theme.

Free to the Public

The CPSWS and its Family Weatherfest are both brought to the public as a free community educational outreach event. It is the commitment of CPSWS and Family Weatherfest to create an outlet that puts severe weather information into as many homes and businesses in the region as possible and this is accomplished by making this a "no admission charge" family activity. Recognizing that we should not charge the public when it comes to learning about severe weather safety, we have in the past and will in the future continue to bring this event to the public free of charge.

The Origin of the CPSWS

The first Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium (CPSWS 1999) was held on August 28, 1999 at the Peter Kiewit Conference Center in downtown Omaha, NE. The original planning committee members represented Omaha REACT, the National Weather Service in Omaha, Omaha television weathercasters and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln meteorology faculty.

The CPSWS planning committee moved the event the following year to Lincoln, Nebraska where it remains to this day.

The second Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium (CPSWS 2000) was held on October 7, 2000 in Hardin Hall, East Campus, of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The CPSWS 2000 organizing committee invited the High Plains Chapter of the National Weather Association (NWA) to hold their annual meeting October 4-6, 2000 in Hardin Hall immediately preceding CPSWS 2000. A banquet was held on the evening of October 6, 2000 to honor the distinguished career of storm researcher Dr. Chuck Doswell.

This banquet served as a lead-in to the first CPSWS held in Lincoln, NE. The UNL Student Local AMS Chapter joined with the Omaha Offutt Local AMS Chapter on this evening to have their first ever joint meeting. Several of the speakers who participated in the NWA meeting during the week remained in Lincoln and spoke at the CPSWS Symposium on the following day October 7, 2000.

The Origin of the Family Weatherfest

The Chair of the CPSWS Program Committee attended the national American Meteorological Society (AMS) Annual meeting in Orlando, FL, in January 2002 and participated in the first ever AMS public Weatherfest. After learning about the success of the AMS Weatherfest in Orlando, FL, the CPSWS Planning Committee decided to include some weather education exhibits and to start a Family Weatherfest at our CPSWS events.

The Weatherfest component of the CPSWS started with CPSWS 2002 and continues to grow each year, attracting many families with K-12 students in their household. Weatherfest events have included weather-balloon launches, tornado generators, search and rescue teams with equipment on-site, interactive displays for question/answers about weather, weather science exhibits, etc., all with the common purpose of educating children and parents alike about the many aspects of severe weather and severe weather preparedness. It is anticipated that the CPSWS and Weatherfest will run alongside each other into the future.

The Scheduling of the CPSWS and Family Weatherfest

The first two CPSWS events were held in September and October. The CPSWS planning committee then decided to move the annual CPSWS event to each Spring so that it would coincide with the start of the spring severe weather season. The time interval between October 2000 and March 2001 was considered to be too short to schedule the next CPSWS right away. The next CPSWS was held 17 months later on March 30, 2002.

There was no CPSWS in 2003 due to lack of funding for the event. However, CPSWS was offered again in Spring 2004 and has been offered on a annual basis since then.

A request was made by the Director of Lancaster County Emergency Management to have the annual CPSWS event each Spring coincide with and incorporate the annual Spotter Training Workshop for Lancaster County.

CPSWS 2004 included, for the first time, the Lancaster County Spotter Training Workshop and our first Weatherfest activities. CPSWS and the Weatherfest continue to be scheduled in the spring along with the annual spotter training and it is scheduled near the time of the annual spring Nebraska state-wide severe weather awareness week.

The event had to be scheduled off campus for three years (2004-2006) while Hardin Hall was being completely renovated.

As noted below, the CPSWS and Weatherfest took place in three area High Schools in Lincoln, before returning to Hardin Hall in March 2007.

The listing of CPSWS dates, locations, and photo galleries from each event are listed below. The number of speakers each year at the CPSWS varied with a variety of styles. For example, in 2005, the focus was on the Hallam, Nebraska tornado that had occurred the previous year and we had more speakers than usual but for much shorter presentation times.

In 2007 we only had four presenters, however, Roger Edwards gave two one-hour presentations, one on the safety of large venues during severe weather and another presentation focusing on advanced spotter techniques.

CPSWS AND Weatherfest Locations

  • 2020: (April 4) at Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference Center, Lincoln, NE
  • 2019: (April 6) at Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference Center, Lincoln, NE
  • 2018: (April 7) at Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference Center, Lincoln, NE
  • 2017: (April 1) at Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference Center, Lincoln, NE
  • 2016: (April 16) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2015: (April 11) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2014: (April 5) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2013: (April 6) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2012: (March 31) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2011: (April 9) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2010: (March 27) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2009: (April 4) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2008: (March 28) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2007: (March 24) at Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2006: (April 1) at Southwest High School, Lincoln, NE
  • 2005: (March 19) at East High School, Lincoln, NE 
  • 2004: (March 20) at North Star High School, Lincoln, NE
  • 2002: (March 30) in Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 2000: (October 7) in Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
  • 1999: (August 28) at the Peter Kiewit Conference Center, Omaha, NE


The huge success of the CPSWS and Family Weatherfest is the result of forming some strong partnerships within the University, as well as in the community. The National Weather Service, Omaha-Valley, Nebraska was associated with the initial CPSWS event in 1999 and continues to be associated with this annual event as a valuable partner helping us promote severe weather safety education. The High Plains Regional Climate Center, National Drought Mitigation Center and the School of Natural Resources at UNL have played an important role in supporting the annual CPSWS and Family Weatherfest. The College of Arts and Sciences became the home for this event in the Spring of 2017. The Departments of Geography and Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and their students have been very helpful in making this event happen on an annual basis. The Lancaster County Office of Emergency Management and the Lincoln Amateur Radio Club are valuable partners who have helped organize the annual Storm Spotter Training Workshops since March 2004. The CPSWS and Weatherfest have also been able to create a partnership with the local television broadcast meteorologists on an annual basis with our "Meet the Weathercasters" event within the Weatherfest. We recognize the important media partnership in disseminating severe weather information and severe weather safety education to the public. Finally, KLIN radio has had a partnership with our event for many years and they graciously bring the organizer of this event into the radio studio the morning before Weatherfst to help promote the event to the public.  

Finally, we are most grateful for the continued financial support of State Farm Insurance.  They join with us in the goal of helping the public be better prepared to mitigate losses due to our extreme weather events that occur in our region.

Weather Ready Nation Ambassador graphic

Weatherfest is proud to be a "Weather-Ready Nation" Ambassador