Hurricane Nets, WX4NHC Activate as Hurricane Paloma Batters Cayman Islands and Cuba
As Hurricane Paloma threatened the Cayman Islands and Cuba over the past weekend, the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), the VoIP Hurricane Net (VOIPWX) and WX4NHC -- the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) -- were active and standing by to take and relay reports from the affected areas. A Category 4 storm at its peak, Paloma -- now a tropical depression -- currently sits between the north coast of Cuba and Andros Island in the Bahamas. According to the National Weather Service, Paloma is not expected to redevelop into another storm, due to upper-level winds.
WX4NHC and the various hurricane Nets were active beginning at 4 PM EST on Friday, November 7, going through the evening and overnight hours into Saturday morning. Later that afternoon, hams reactivated the Nets, keeping them open through Saturday night to gather more information from Cuba.
Arnie Coro, CO2KK, was active with Cuban Emergency Nets on 40 meters. He relayed reports of widespread communication outages; at least one communications tower was blown down in Santa Cruz Del Sur. In the province of Camaguey, sustained winds of 95 MPH and gusts to 155 MPH were recorded.
"We had to go through two different relays on 40 meters to gather those reports from Arnie, as propagation -- which is normally good between WX4NHC and Cuba -- was poor," said Assistant WX4NHC Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R. "Arnie's reports were also used in official advisory statements issued by the NHC."
The Cayman Islands also saw their share of the storm. "Through a variety of contacts that we were able to make [in the area], we learned of hurricane force wind gusts measured as high as 100 MPH on Grand Cayman Island," said VoIP Hurricane Net Director of Operations Rob Macedo, KD1CY. "There was significant damage, particularly over Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. We received a relayed unofficial report of a 155 MPH wind gust on Cayman Brac. Roofs were blown off homes and significant damage was reported at resort locations on Cayman Brac."
Ripoll said that the NHC used many of the reports received from the Nets in the official advisory statements issued by NHC forecasters. A complete list of reports received from various sources can be seen on the VoIP Hurricane Net Report Viewer.
"The efforts of the VoIP Hurricane Net were very helpful, especially during Paloma's track through the Cayman Islands," said Ripoll. "The information relayed by the Nets gave the Hurricane Center forecasters additional insight of what Cayman residents were actually going through. The multi-tasking, multi-mode methods of combining EchoLink, IRLP, VoIP, HF monitoring, Internet Web blogs and direct e-mail is a great example of information gathering without limitations. These hybrid communications efforts -- before and during the hurricane -- to contact hams and non-hams were successful in promoting awareness that people had alternate means of sending and receiving hurricane information during the event. Some of these new contacts will now be better prepared for future storms."