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27 August 2011

Amateurs Continue to Prepare for Hurricane Irene As Storm Nears North Carolina

Image: NOAA (Click for larger view.)

As Hurricane Irene -- currently a Category 2 storm -- makes it way toward the North Carolina’s Outer Banks, radio amateurs in the Carolinas, Virginia and up the Atlantic coast are making preparations to assist served agencies. As always, the ARRL cautions those amateurs who wish to volunteer and provide support to check in with their local Emergency Coordinators for further instructions. In no case should amateurs self-deploy to the affected areas.

At ARRL Headquarters, the ARRL HQ Emergency Response Team (HQERT) has established a website to keep amateurs informed of the latest developments and developments in the affected areas. This website will also provide links to the NHC, WX4NHC — the Amateur Radio station at the NHC — the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) and the Voice over Internet Protocol Weather Net (VOIPWX), where radio amateurs can send in their reports. The HQERT is currently monitoring various nets and providing support to the affected Field Organizations, and will be at W1AW, the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station beginning 7 AM EDT Saturday, August 27. W1AW will be monitoring and using HF, EchoLink, Winlink, D-STAR and IRLP to assist in any ways needed.


WX4NHC is monitoring the Hurricane Watch Net on 14.325 MHz. Secondary HF frequencies will be 7.268 MHz and 3.950 MHz +/- QRM, should propagation be lost on 20 meters. EchoLink “WX-Talk” Conference Room and IRLP node 9219 is also being monitored. WX4NHC is also monitoring CWOP, APRS and MADIS/MESONET automated weather stations in the affected area, as well as EchoLink “WX-Talk” Conference Room and IRLP node 9219. Surface reports using WX4NHC’s Online Hurricane Report form are also being monitored.

“We request all land based stations, as well as ships at sea in the areas affected, to send us weather data (measured or estimated) and damage reports,” said WX4NHC Assistant Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R. “If you are in the affected area and normally monitor on a local Net on VHF, 40 or 80 meters, we would appreciate your checking into the HWN NET or EchoLink/IRLP Net once per hour to receive the latest hurricane advisories and to report your local conditions.”

Hurricane Watch Net

The Hurricane Watch Net has been active on 14.325, off and on since Monday, August 22. According to Stan Broadway, N8BHL, the net will not be active on Friday, August 26 during the day, but will activate perhaps as early as Friday night, but more likely Saturday morning once the storm threatens the coast. “We’ll try to be flexible so as not to tie up the 14.325 frequency unnecessarily,” Stan Broadway, told the ARRL. “In all likelihood, the Hurricane Watch Net will stay active as the storm moves up the US coast. The Hurricane Watch Net will have members active on 40 and 80 meters, listen for further details.”

Broadway thanked amateurs for keeping the HWN’s frequency clear: “It has been very important to have a clear frequency, since we were receiving reports from stations like C6AGG and C6AID, whose antennas were lying on the ground after 100 MPH winds took them down. They were still able to transmit information to us under those conditions and we thank you! We were able to relay those important reports directly to WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center.”

Voice over Internet Protocol Weather Net

The VoIP invites Amateur Radio operators to use EchoLink node #7203 and IRLP #9219 to report information regarding Hurricane Irene. The VoIP then will relay that information directly to the National Hurricane Center in Florida.

“We have been doing this for a number of years,” said Rob Macedo, KD1CY. He told the ARRL that they had received reports on Hurricane Irene from as far away as the Turks and Caicos Islands. “These reports are used as ‘ground truth intelligence,’ allowing NHC meteorologists to ‘tweak’ their forecasts,” he said.

Hurricane Irene’s Track

As of 11 AM EDT Friday, August 26, Hurricane Irene is about 330 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina; it is moving north at 14 MPH, with maximum sustained winds topping 105 MPH with higher gusts. A hurricane warning is in effect for Little River Inlet, North Carolina, northward to Sandy Hook, New Jersey. This includes the Pamlico, Albemarle, and Currituck Sounds, Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay south of Drum Point. A hurricane watch is in effect for north of Sandy Hook to the mouth of the Merrimack River, Massachusetts. This includes New York City, Long Island, Long Island Sound, Block Island, Boston, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. A tropical storm warning is in effect for north of Edisto Beach, South Carolina to Little River Inlet on the Chesapeake Bay, from Drum Point northward and the tidal Potomac.

Watches and warnings will likely be extended northward into New England this afternoon. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds. A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area. A watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds.

Some of the outer rain bands from Irene will brush the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts on Friday and into Friday night. Rain and wind will increase steadily from Northeast South Carolina and the coast of North Carolina on Friday afternoon, with hurricane conditions likely along the Eastern North Carolina coast later Friday night.

The center of Hurricane Irene is expected to make landfall as a borderline Category 2 or 3 hurricane on Saturday morning in Eastern North Carolina, most likely between Morehead City and Hatteras. Forecasters say that tropical storm conditions are possible as far inland as I-95 in North Carolina, with hurricane conditions possible as far as 40 miles from the coast. Hurricane conditions are expected for much of Saturday along North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Rain and wind will begin to pick up in Eastern Virginia late Friday night and into Saturday, moving up to Maryland, Delaware, and Southern New Jersey on Saturday. Hurricane conditions are possible along the coast, with tropical storm conditions possible as far inland as I-95. Hurricane conditions are likely on Saturday night for New Jersey’s Delmarva Peninsula and even extreme Southeastern Pennsylvania on Saturday night. Inland sections from Baltimore and Washington, DC to Eastern Pennsylvania can expect tropical storm conditions and heavy rain.

The New York Metropolitan Area will experience the worst conditions later on Saturday night and Sunday, with hurricane conditions possible along with destructive wind, heavy flooding rain and storm surge with coastal flooding. Tropical storm conditions expected in Western New Jersey and the Upstate New York up the Hudson River Valley. Irene will then race through New England on Sunday and Sunday night and could still bring some hurricane conditions. Conditions in the Mid-Atlantic up through Southeastern New York, New Jersey and New England are expected to have extreme gusty winds, flooding rains and coastal flooding.

Flooding and wind-related damage -- including downed trees, limbs, power lines, power outages, roof, window and siding damage -- can be expected from North Carolina to New England by the time Irene moves away on Monday.