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25 August 2011

ARRL HQ Emergency Response Team Gears Up for Hurricane Irene

This graphic shows an approximate representation of coastal areas under a hurricane warning (red), hurricane watch (pink), tropical storm warning (blue) and tropical storm watch (yellow). The orange circle indicates the current position of the center of the tropical cyclone. The black line and dots show the National Hurricane Center forecast track of the center at the times indicated. The dot indicating the forecast center location will be black if the cyclone is forecast to be tropical and will be white with a black outline if the cyclone is forecast to be extratropical. If only an L is displayed, then the system is forecast to be a remnant low. The letter inside the dot indicates the NHC's forecast intensity for that time: D: Tropical Depression – wind speed less than 39 MPH. S: Tropical Storm – wind speed between 39 MPH and 73 MPH. H: Hurricane – wind speed between 74 MPH and 110 MPH. M: Major Hurricane – wind speed greater than 110 MPH. [Image and description courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]

As Hurricane Irene -- currently a Category 3 storm -- heads toward the Carolinas, the ARRL HQ Emergency Response Team (HQERT) is gearing up to provide support to the ARRL Field Organizations whose areas lie in the storm’s path. According to ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, W5MPC, the HQERT will begin monitoring various nets and providing support to the affected Field Organizations on Friday, August 26 from W1AW, the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station. The NHC is predicting that Irene could become a Category 4 storm by Thursday.

As of 11 AM EDT on Wednesday, August 24, Irene is located about 100 miles southeast of Long Island, Bahamas and about 285 miles southeast of Nassau, Bahamas; it is moving northwest at 12 MPH, with maximum sustained winds topping 115 MPH with higher gusts. According to the NHC, Hurricane Irene is expected to strengthen in the next 48 hours and is expected to make landfall in the US -- most likely North Carolina’s Outer Banks -- very early Saturday morning.

If you would like to assist served agencies in providing communications support, please wait until you are asked to do so by the served agency -- no self-activating, please! If you are not already part of an ARES® or other EmComm group, please contact your local Emergency Coordinator (EC) for instructions. North Carolina hams can find a list of ECs here. Hams in South Carolina should click here, click on “ARES-SEC Website” in the left-hand column, then click on “Appointee Information” in the second left-hand column to find a listing of District Emergency Coordinators (DECs). Virginia hams can click here to find a listing of DECs in their area.

Beginning on Monday, August 22, the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) activated its nets and monitoring 14.325 MHz in support of WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio Station at the National Hurricane Center (NHC). WX4NHC appreciates eyewitness reports from Amateur Radio operators and volunteer weather observers who are within 300 miles of a hurricane. You can send reports to the NHC via their online reporting system or you can print out the form and send it via fax.

Irene is tracking in a northwesterly direction through the Bahamas and will continue to do so until Thursday, with rainfall up to 15 inches expected in the island nation. A dangerous storm surge could raise water levels by 5-8 feet in the Southeast Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, and 7-11 feet in the Central and Northwest Bahamas as Irene moves through. Heavy rainfall is still occurring in bands over Puerto Rico and parts of Hispaniola. Another 1-3 inches of rain are possible in Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, bringing threats of flash flooding and mudslides.

After departing the Northwest Bahamas on Thursday night, Irene should parallel the Florida and Georgia coasts on Friday and pass off the South Carolina coast Saturday. Even though the storm is expected to miss Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to the east, it is a larger-than-average hurricane, so coastal residents will still see some impacts, including gusty winds, showers, dangerous surf and strong rip currents.

During the day on Saturday, Irene is expected to approach the eastern coast of North Carolina and the Outer Banks. Hurricane conditions are likely in Eastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks Saturday afternoon and night. Continuing up the East Coast, Irene could then threaten the eastern portions of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast with damaging winds, flooding rains and coastal surge, flooding and high waves on Saturday night through Monday.

Hurricane Irene hit Puerto Rico on Sunday, causing power outages throughout the island. More than 1 million were still without power on Monday morning. As of 11 AM EDT Wednesday, August 24, a hurricane warning is in effect for Southeastern, Central and Northwestern Bahamas. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Turks and Caicos Islands.