Dorian Sets New Record for Hurricane Watch Net

Hurricane Dorian, which sat nearly stationary over the Bahamas for several days – causing massive destruction there – before moving toward the U.S. east coast, resulted in a new record for hours activated during a single storm by the Hurricane Watch Net. According to the ARRL Letter, the net’s volunteers were activated for 159 hours, 139 of them continuously, eclipsing the previous record of 151 hours last year for Hurricane Matthew.
Net Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, noted that during the activation, net members collected and forwarded countless surface reports to the National Hurricane Center. After devastating the Bahamas, Dorian made a second landfall in North Carolina, then clipped the New England states and Maritime Canada before finally heading out to sea.

Another hurricane – Lorenzo – posed no threat to the western Atlantic but was threatening the Azores as of the last week in September. As a result, amateurs there asked AMSAT to keep the AO-92 satellite in U/V operation (435 MHz up, 145 MHz down) for potential emergency traffic. According to the AMSAT News Service, the satellite had been scheduled to switch to a 1296-MHz uplink during that time, but AMSAT said emergency use is always a priority.

Hurricane Watch Net Sets New Activation Record during Dorian

Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) volunteers set a new record for total hours activated during a single storm. The net was active for 157 hours — 139 hours of which were continuous. HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said the continuous activation record stands at 151 hours for Hurricane Matthew in 2018.

“During this marathon activation, members of the Hurricane Watch Net collected and forwarded countless surface reports to the National Hurricane Center in Miami,” Graves noted.

After devastating Abaco and Grand Bahama islands with winds clocked at 200 MPH or more, Dorian made its way slowly toward Florida, before sliding up the southeastern US coast and making a second landfall on Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It wasn’t over, however. Dorian veered out into the Atlantic, affecting New England before hitting Maritime Canada, where it knocked out power and downed trees.

During its lengthy initial activation, the HWN attempted on numerous occasions to raise stations in the Bahamas but was unable to contact anyone in the most-affected area.

The HWN activated for the last time during Hurricane Dorian last Saturday, as the storm was, by then, speeding up the east coast of the US as a Category 1 storm. Poor propagation plagued net operations throughout the activation, even right up to the end. At one point, propagation was lost between net members and Nova Scotia on 40 meters, although the net continued for a while longer on 20 meters.

Early on, Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) volunteers went on alert along the US east coast, preparing for the worst. The major problem was storm surge-related flooding. Evacuations were ordered ahead of the storm.

The ARRL Headquarters Emergency Response Team convened early on to monitor the situation closely. ARRL officials were in regular communication with partner agencies, particularly FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. W1AW, which had already planned to be in operation for the Hiram Percy Maxim 150th birthday special event, remained ready to assist with emergency communications.

The VoIP Hurricane Net activated over the weekend in conjunction with WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center to keep on top of ground-truth weather information.


Hurricane Watch Net Suspends Operation, May Reactivate on Saturday

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) suspended operation temporarily at 1600 UTC today (September 6), after a 139-hour marathon activation that began last Saturday. The net may reactivate if weather conditions dictate.

“The hurricane has been moving just offshore of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina,” HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said. “This morning, Hurricane Dorian made US landfall at 1235 UTC over Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.” By the time, Dorian had been downgraded to a Category 1 storm, with maximum sustained winds near 90 MPH.

As of 1700 UTC, Dorian was moving away from the North Carolina coast and out into open waters of the Atlantic. The storm was located about 95 miles east-northeast of Cape Hatteras, with maximum sustained winds holding at 90 mph. Hurricane Dorian was moving to the northeast at 17 MPH.

According to the National Hurricane Center:

“Life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds will continue along portions of the North Carolina coast, portions of southeast Virginia, and southern Chesapeake Bay for the next several hours.

“Areas of flash flooding, some of which may be significant and life-threatening, will continue into early afternoon across portions of northeastern North Carolina into far southeast Virginia.

“Dangerous storm surge impacts are likely in portions of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, southwestern Newfoundland and eastern Nova Scotia this weekend. Hurricane-force winds are also likely in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and possibly in Newfoundland Saturday and Sunday.”

Graves said that during the net’s marathon activation, net members collected and forwarded countless surface reports to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Dorian has one last forecast landfall in Nova Scotia.

Environment Canada has announced:

“A Hurricane Watch is in effect for all of Nova Scotia. Tropical Storm Watches are in effect for southeastern New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, the Magdalen Islands, and western Newfoundland.

“According to the latest forecast guidance, the most likely track projection brings Hurricane Dorian south of the Maritimes on Saturday, pushing through eastern Nova Scotia Saturday night, and then over the eastern Gulf of St. Lawrence waters or western Newfoundland by Sunday morning.

“Severe winds and torrential rain will have major impacts for southeastern New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Western Newfoundland, and the Quebec Lower North Shore. Large waves are expected for the Atlantic coasts of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and for eastern portions of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Storm surge, combined with large waves and pounding surf, may give flooding for parts of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and the Magdalen Islands.”

“We have tentative plans to activate Saturday morning at 1500 UTC and remain active until perhaps as early as 0900 UTC on Sunday, or until we’ve lost all propagation to the affected area,” Graves said. “Once this occurs, we will suspend all operations for Hurricane Dorian. This plan is subject to change as required.”

International Amateur Radio Union Region 2 (the Americas) Emergency Coordinator Doug Mercer, VO1DM, advised radio amateurs to prepare their homes for high winds and rain and, when able, to monitor local repeaters. He directed Canadian radio amateurs to the IARU Emergency Centre of Activity Frequencies.

FCC Extends Waiver Permitting Use of PACTOR 4 for Hurricane Relief Efforts

The FCC has extended by 1 week an emergency waiver request from ARRL to permit radio amateurs actively engaged in Hurricane Dorian response and relief efforts to use the PACTOR 4 digital protocol on HF.

“We conclude that granting the requested waiver is in the public interest,” the FCC said in an Order released September 6. “Hurricane Dorian has caused — and is likely to continue to cause — substantial damage in the southeast United States, and communications services will be disrupted. Thus, to accommodate Amateur Radio operators assisting in the recovery efforts, we grant ARRL’s waiver request until September 13, 2019. The waiver is limited to Amateur Radio operators using PACTOR 4 emissions in the continental United States who are directly involved with HF hurricane relief communications.”

The FCC said the waiver grant was without prejudice to the resolution of the pending rulemaking proceeding, WT Docket 16-239, initiated by ARRL. The rule making proceeding stemmed from ARRL’s request to have the FCC delete the symbol rate limit in §97.307(f).

A waiver is necessary because §97.307(f) limits digital data emissions of Amateur stations operating below 28 MHz to a symbol rate not to exceed 300 bauds, and in the 10-meter band (28.0 – 28.3 MHz) to a symbol rate not to exceed 1200 bauds. PACTOR 4 has a symbol rate of 1800 bauds. ARRL has dispatched communications equipment to carry out disaster relief communication, noting that PACTOR 4’s higher data rates are critical for hurricane relief communications.

The waiver extension only applies to radio amateurs directly involved in the hurricane relief efforts involving the US mainland. It does not extend to non-emergency communications.

Amateur Radio Resources Ready as Dorian Poised to Become a Major Hurricane

[UPDATED: 2019-08-29 @1945UTC] Amateur Radio resources organized this week as Hurricane Dorian threatened Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and worked its way through the Caribbean. A change in direction spared Puerto Rico — still recovering from hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 — from taking a direct hit; the Virgin Islands suffered downed trees and widespread power outages. As of August 29, Dorian was a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds near 85 MPH with higher gusts. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Dorian was expected to become a major hurricane on Friday and remain an extremely dangerous hurricane through the weekend, reaching Category 3 or 4 by September 1. Heavy rainfall generated by Dorian could cause flash flooding, the NHC said.

“The risk of devastating hurricane-force winds along the Florida east coast and peninsula late this weekend and early next week continues to increase,” the NHC said on August 29.

“We are standing by in a ready-to-respond state, once a more definitive track is known,” Southern Florida Section Manager Barry Porter, KB1PA, told ARRL Headquarters on August 29. “We will be holding a tri-Section conference call tonight to firm up any plans.” Porter said Florida Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and Red Cross were in preparation mode.

On Wednesday, the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), activated for about 9 hours on 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz, working in conjunction with WX4NHC at the NHC in Miami to provide “ground truth” weather data to forecasters. The VoIP Hurricane Net also activated.

The HWN has continued to closely monitor Dorian’s progress. HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said the HWN tentatively plans reactivate on August 30 at 2100 UTC.

The ARRL Headquarters Emergency Response Team is also monitoring the situation closely. ARRL officials are in regular communication with partner agencies, particularly FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, ARRL HQ remains in close contact with Field Organization officials in the affected region, where some ARRL Ham Aid equipment was previously positioned.

W1AW, which had already planned to be in operation for the Hiram Percy Maxim 150th Birthday special event this weekend, will remain ready to assist with emergency communications.

Senator Lauds Hams in Post-Hurricane Tweet

Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker – a longtime supporter of amateur radio – used his Twitter feed in October to point out the ways in which hams helped with disaster response efforts in Florida after Hurricane Michael.

According to the ARRL Letter, Wicker tweeted that hams are trained volunteers who “help maintain critical communication to areas with no electricity, phone, or internet service.”