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Caribbean Hams Get Ready for Hurricane Omar

10/15/2008

As Hurricane Omar, currently a Category 1 storm, makes it way through the Caribbean, hams in the area are ready. According to ARRL US Virgin Islands Section Manager John Ellis, NP2B, tropical storm force winds are impacting the island of St Croix. In a coordination call with ARRL HQ, he told ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Dennis Dura, K2DCD, that he had secured his home and all his towers and antennas, except for one outdoor dipole used for the Hurricane Watch Net and other HF frequencies, which may be the only means of communications for the area.

"Currently, all three 2 meter repeaters on St Croix, St Thomas and St John are operational, but the Internet is down and not expected to be restored until after Omar passes," Ellis said. There is no existing USVI-Wide Net to provide Emergency Communications coordination, command and control using Amateur Radio, so "each island is on its own."

Ellis said that there are only 5 hams on St Croix with HF capability; approximately 15 hams have VHF capability. Each island's Emergency Management operation is handled somewhat independently, due to the distance over water; this, he said, requires "self sufficiency."

Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) Manager Dave Lefavour, W7GOX, reported that the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) activated at 9 AM EDT on Wednesday, October 15 on 14.325 MHz as Hurricane Omar neared the Virgin and Leeward Islands. "The Net will provide the latest advisories to the affected area, passing real time weather condition reports from amateurs in the area to the National Hurricane Center via WX4NHC in Miami.

WX4NHC will be monitoring the Hurricane Watch Net on 14.325 MHz. Secondary HF frequencies will be 7.268 MHz and 3.950 MHz +/- QRM, should we lose propagation on 20 meters. EchoLink "WX-Talk" Conference Room and IRLP node 9219 will also be monitored. WX4NHC will also monitor CWOP, APRS and MADIS/MESONET Automated weather stations in the affected area. Surface Reports using our Online Hurricane Report form will be 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."

The VoIP Hurricane Net will activate at 5 PM EDT on Wednesday. Director of Operations for the VoIP Hurricane Net Rob Macedo, KD1CY, asked for the assistance of any ham operators in the affected area "or with contacts in Puerto Rico, the US and British Virgin Islands and the Northern Leeward Islands of Anguilla, St Martin, St Barts, Saba, St Eustatius, St Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat. Any other Caribbean island stations that have relays into the affected area, or any US stations that know other hams or contacts in this affected area, would also be quite helpful."

A hurricane warning remains is in effect for the Northern Leeward Islands: US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands and the islands of Vieques, Culebra, St Martin/Maarten, Saba, St Eustatius, St. Barthelemy, and Anguilla. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within the warning area within the next 24 hours. A hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning remain in effect for Puerto Rico. The National Weather Service reported that they could issue a hurricane watch for Puerto Rico later today.

In a report issued by the NWS at 2 PM EDT, Omar is moving toward the east-northeast at near 13 MPH. A gradual turn back toward the northeast is forecast to occur later today, with an increase in forward speed expected over the next day or two. On this track, Omar is forecast to move through the Northern Leeward Islands late tonight and early Thursday.



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