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ARES on Alert for Hurricane Dorian’s Possible Arrival


[UPDATED 2019-09-03 @ 2330 UTC] Downgraded to a Category 2 storm, Hurricane Dorian has speeded up and now is moving to the northwest at about 6 MPH. Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) teams in the ARRL South Florida Section are fully activated, with more than 20 evacuation shelters open. Northern Florida is at a Level 3 status — monitoring the situation, and West Central Florida (WCF) has opened shelters opened in several counties and also is at a Level 3 alert, a stand-by level.

Although the official forecast does not show Dorian making landfall along the Florida east coast, the increasing size of Dorian’s wind field along with any deviation to the left of the forecast track will bring hurricane-force winds onshore along portions of the Florida east coast,” West Central Florida Section Manager Darrell Davis, KT4WX, said his Section’s latest bulletin. “The new forecast has necessitated numerous changes to watches and warnings along the southeastern United States coast.”

The big danger for Florida could be storm surge, with storm surge warnings along the Florida coast up to South Carolina, while storm surge watches are in effect from South Carolina to Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Hurricane warnings are in effect for Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Brevard, Volusia, Flager, and St. John’s counties in Florida and for parts of the South Carolina coast.

Late this morning, ARES organizations in Florida’s three ARRL Sections held another conference call to continue coordination of preparedness activities for Amateur Radio emergency communications. Another conference call is scheduled for tomorrow morning (September 4) to assess the situation at that point. 

The online Florida ARES Operator Application remains available if anyone wishes to apply to provide mutual aid outside of their own county. The form details the qualifications necessary to apply, and it’s limited to Florida residents.

The ARRL West Central Florida Section has returned to a Level 3 activation — a stand-by level. “Highlands County Emergency Management at approximately 1245 hours gave instructions to close shelters and Highlands County ARES was in the process of standing down,” Davis said in his update. “Hardee County and Polk County EOCs are in partial activation mode and are not contemplating opening shelters at this time but are standing by in case the need arises.”

The Florida Tri-Section ARES Net is now in operation on 3.950 MHz or 7.242 MHz, depending on propagation. Clear frequencies are appreciated. Another net is running on the statewide SARnet repeater system. Net operational hours may be modified on short notice to fit the situation.

WCF Section Emergency Coordinator Ben Henley, KI4IGX, and staff are continuing to closely monitor the situation and are staying in communications with local ARES Emergency Coordinators and the State Emergency Operations Center.

“All ARES, ACS, and CERT groups personnel are requested to continue to closely monitor the latest advisories by the National Hurricane Center,” Davis said. “As we have seen, the risk to the ARRL West Central Florida Section may be reduced at the moment, but it is by no means past, and can change at any time. Radio amateurs should not self-deploy.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) indicated at 1500 UTC today (September 3) that the eye of Dorian was “finally moving northwestward and growing in size.” The NHC said the now-Category 2 storm continues to produce dangerous winds and life-threatening storm surge” on Grand Bahama Island.”

At 1500 UTC, Dorian was about 45 miles north of Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, and some 105 miles east of Fort Pierce, Florida. The storm has been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 110 MPH, and is moving to the northwest at 2 MPH.

  • A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for Jupiter Inlet, Florida, to South Santee River, South Carolina.
  • A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for North of South Santee River, South Carolina, to Cape Lookout, North Carolina.
  • A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Grand Bahama and the Abacos Islands in the northwestern Bahamas; Jupiter Inlet, Florida, to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and north of Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to South Santee River, South Carolina.
  • A Hurricane Watch is in effect for north of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, to Edisto Beach, South Carolina; north of South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina, and for Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. 
  • A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for north of Deerfield Beach, Florida, to Jupiter Inlet, Florida, and for north of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, to Edisto Beach, South Carolina.
  • A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Lake Okeechobee.

The NHC reports: “Dorian is moving toward the northwest near 2 MPH, and a slightly faster motion toward the northwest or north-northwest is expected later today and tonight. A turn toward the north is forecast by Wednesday evening, followed by a turn toward the north-northeast Thursday morning. On this track, the core of extremely dangerous Hurricane Dorian will gradually move north of Grand Bahama Island through this evening. The hurricane will then move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late today through Wednesday evening, very near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Wednesday night and Thursday, and near or over the North Carolina coast late Thursday and Thursday night.” 

“All ARES, ACS, and CERT groups should continue to stay in communication with their respective leadership for their groups in case that group is requested to activate,” Davis said. “Any equipment checks, supply replenishment, and or home mitigation activities should already be at completion. As we have seen, the risk to the ARRL West Central Florida Section may be reduced, at the moment, but it is by no means past and can change at any time.”

ARES operators have been deployed to two Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) sites. GEMA will listen for assistance calls on HF, but the primary method will be to submit an ICS 231 form via Winlink. GEMA will monitor 3.975, 5.335, 7.287, and 3.583 MHz (MT-63 1K), as well as D-Star, and the *Georgia* EchoLink conference node 4544.

Coastal counties in Georgia are under evacuation orders, and highways have been reconfigured for one-way traffic to move inland away from the coast. 

The South Carolina Emergency Management Department (SCEMD) has issued a civil emergency message due to the potential threat from Hurricane Dorian, and mandatory evacuations have been ordered in several counties.

“South Carolina ARES is standing by and assessing the needs of our coastal counties,” South Carolina Section Emergency Coordinator Billy Irwin, K9OH, said. “SCEMD’s radio room is now operating in 24-hour coverage. We have been having regular conference calls with our leadership and ensuring they have the latest information possible. With the current forecasts showing the system staying off coast this looks to mainly be a coastal event with some counties along and south of I-95 being the ones most affected.”

Irwin said South Carolina ARES would continue to consult with its partners throughout the event and potentially scale back statewide operations excluding operators at SCEMD, those directly assisting the coastal counties later today, and those who have stated they are available to deploy. Everyone is reminded that this is a fluid situation and these decisions are subject to change without notice.”

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) has been in continuous operation since Saturday and will remain so until further notice, on 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz, depending on propagation. The VoIP Hurricane Net (EchoLink WX_TALK Conference) activated over the weekend in conjunction with WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center to keep on top of ground-truth weather information. 



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