E.Mass. Hams Support Frances Communications

SKYWARN logoRob Macedo, KD1CY writes:

Amateur Radio Operators involved in the NWS Taunton ARES-SKYWARN program in Massachusetts were in a new support role over the Labor Day Weekend as net controls for the Voice Over IP SKYWARN Net that assists in supporting the National Hurricane Center which operates under call-sign, WX4NHC. The purpose of the net is to forward estimated and measured wind information, wind damage reports, barometric pressure, measured rainfall, coastal flooding, river and stream flooding and any funnel cloud/tornado reports to the National Hurricane Center when requested to do so by the National Hurricane Center coordinators.

Amateur Radio Operators from SEMARA (the Southeast Massachusetts Amateur Radio Association) ARES team, W1AEI-Arthur Irwin, W1RJC-Rick Cabral, KD4CLJ-Dave Bodman from the Sturdy Memorial ARES team, KB1CYO-Phil Mclaughlin from Norfolk County SKYWARN who is also an operator at NWS Taunton, Ray Weber-KA1JJM, Western Massachusetts SKYWARN Coordinator and Rob Macedo-KD1CY, the ARES SKYWARN Coordinator for NWS Taunton assisted in these operations over the course of the past 3 days. This assistance included acting as a primary net control for the net, acting as an assistant net control to cover for the primary net control when sending reports online to the National Hurricane Center, and reading critical NHC advisories to the affected areas of Hurricane Frances.

The Voice Over IP WX Net utilizes the WX_TALK server on Echolink and IRLP (Internet Radio Linking Project) reflector 9210 through a cross-link that allows both systems to be connected simultaneously. This allows the National Hurricane Center access to many Hams who may have weather station equipment or who are SKYWARN Spotters that may not have HF capability or privileges. It also allows net controls from around the United States and even internationally to assist in operations. There were several net controls from such far away places as Australia and Hawaii who covered the net during the overnight hours in the affected area of Florida. This works well since the operator’s in these areas are covering during “their” daytime. In addition, other net controls from Ohio, North Carolina, Washington, South Carolina, Minnesota, Texas and other states and countries were monitoring and assisting where required.

The SEMARA Club activated their Ham Station under call-sign W1AEC in support of this effort. The club station has capability to reach numerous Echolink/IRLP nodes and also allowed for monitoring and relaying to the Hurricane Watch Net on HF frequency 14.325 KHz when required. A station just outside of Stewart, Florida could not be heard by monitoring stations on the Hurricane Watch Net and Hams at the SEMARA Club relayed the information to the Hurricane Watch Net Control. The station in Stewart, Florida was looking for a position on the eye and whether the severe northeast quadrant of the eye had totally passed his location as he was without any capability to receive weather bulletins and radar updates. Net Control operations out of SEMARA was done by a team of Amateurs with at least 2 Amatuers present at all times. KD4CLJ-Dave, KB1CYO-Phil and KA1JJM-Ray opeated out of their home/work locations to provide support for the net.

Several dozen reports were handled by all the net controls including the ones who served from Massachusetts ARES-SKYWARN. Five shifts of varying lengths were covered in the varying capacities of Net Control and Assistant Net Control stations by Amateurs in Massachusetts and many other shifts were covered by Hams in other states and countries as stated previously. Many criteria reports of wind damage as well as measured and estimated winds were received by the net. One station in the affected area, KA4EPS-Lou from Deerfield Beach Florida gave several wind measurement reports at his location and at another residence’s location in Boynton Beach Inlet near Malapan, Florida as well as wind damage reports from his area to net controls from Massachusetts and other states during the course of the net. A peak wind gust of 113 MPH was measured at Boynton Beach Inlet before the anemometer was destroyed by the storm per a report recieved this morning. In addition, liaisons to SKYWARN Nets in the Tampa Bay area as well as Broward County Florida were also on frequency. Numerous stations from the Orlando and Daytona Beach Florida area were also on the air giving reports of criteria to be forwarded to the National Hurricane Center. Former NWS Taunton Amateur Radio Operator, Mike Leger, N1YLQ, who formerly lived in Massachusetts and now lives in Florida, provided reports to both the VoIP WX Net and the Hurricane Watch Net from the backup Daytona Beach Red Cross EOC in Deland, Florida and is providing support to Red Cross operations.

The experience has given Amateurs in Massachusetts a taste of what a hurricane can bring to the region as well as enhanced critical skills in determining what data should be sent to the National Hurricane Center if a hurricane strikes the NWS Taunton County Warning area. Unfortunately, the help maybe needed again as Hurricane Ivan threatens the Carribean Islands and could pose a threat to the US East Coast at the end of this week or early next week depending on his eventual track. Hurricane Ivan is currently a Category-IV Hurricane that is threatening the Carribean Leeward Islands including Barbados. The National Hurricane Center along with the Hurricane Watch Net, and the VoIP WX Net will activate as early as 6PM EDT on Monday for the impact of Hurricane Ivan.

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