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Hurricane Bill Builds to Category 4; Amateur Radio Hurricane Nets Ready


Now that Tropical Storms Ana and Claudette have dissipated, Hurricane Bill -- now labeled a Category 4 storm -- is churning its way across the Atlantic with sustained winds near 135 miles per hour. Even though the storm's projected path does not make landfall in the US, hams affiliated with the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) and the VoIP Hurricane Net (VoIPWX) are ready to provide communications support.

Hurricane Watch Net

HWN Manager Dave Lefavour, W7GOX, told the ARRL that Net members are "limbering up their microphones and checking their antennas. We're all very carefully watching the storm. We could activate sometime during the next few days, based on the forecast tracks and intensity. We always ask all of our Amateur Radio friends and any new stations that might have data for us in the Atlantic, Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf coastal areas to dust off their weather instruments. We'll probably need to establish communications with them very soon."

The HWN -- operating on 14.325 MHz -- relays real-time weather observations to WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center (NHC). "We want all of our reporting stations, especially those closer to the US, to keep in mind that we're also prepared to operate the HWN on 7.168 MHz or 3.668 MHz," Lefavour explained. "If propagation is such that we cannot maintain contact with reporting stations on 14.325 MHz, we'll open a Net on one or the other of those frequencies. Plans are to try 40 meters first, with 80 meters as our last choice of bands."

Lefavour encouraged hams to monitor the HWN Web site for Net activation plans: "We have placed data products from the NHC on the HWN Web site, including maps and charts of tropical storm activity."

VoIP Hurricane Net

The VoIP Hurricane Net -- which meets weekly during the hurricane season months of June-November and monthly from December-May -- has also been monitoring Tropical Storms Anna and Claudette last week and is closely monitoring the progress of Hurricane Bill this week.

"Models are taking Hurricane Bill anywhere from New England and the Canadian Maritimes to Bermuda, or completely out to sea and not affecting any land areas. We are continuing to closely monitor the storm's progress," said VoIP Hurricane Net Director of Operations Rob Macedo, KD1CY. "Since 2002, we have been gathering surface reports to help WX4NHC save lives," he said. "The Net activates whenever there is a landfalling hurricane and will review any and all sources to gather surface data for WX4NHC as required."

The weekly VoIPWX Net had a surge in activity last week as Tropical Storms Ana, Bill and Claudette formed almost right on top of each other. Macedo told the ARRL that hams, many of whom are in hurricane-prone areas, were informed of the advisories for each tropical system. "The Net also informally activated as Claudette made landfall as a tropical storm in the Florida Panhandle," he explained. "The VoIP Hurricane Net Activation Policy is to activate during hurricanes, but will sometimes activate in the event of strong tropical storms that are near hurricane strength."

The VoIP Hurricane Net meets every Saturday evening at 8 PM EDT (0000 UTC Sunday) on the *WX-TALK* EchoLink Conference Node: 7203/IRLP Reflector 9219 system. When hurricanes threaten land, the Net meets and stays active as long as required on the system with listen-only EchoLink conferences and IRLP systems and streaming audio systems available.

From the National Hurricane Center

At 0900 UTC on Wednesday, August 19, the center of Hurricane Bill was located about 460 miles (740 km) east of the Leeward Islands. Bill is moving west-northwest at a speed near 16 MPH (26 km/hr). A gradual turn toward the northwest is expected during the next 24-48 hours. On this track, the core will be passing well to the northeast of the Northern Leeward Islands late Wednesday and early Thursday.

The NHC said that they expect the storm to strengthen in the next 24 hours. A NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft is currently on its way to investigate Hurricane Bill. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 45 miles from the center; tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 175 miles. The NHC said that large swells associated with the storm will be impacting the islands of the northeast Caribbean Sea during the next day or two, with Bermuda and portions of the southeastern coast of the United States experiencing large swells on Friday and Saturday.



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