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Hurricane Watch Net Eyeing Hurricane Gonzalo


The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) is keeping close watch on Hurricane Gonzalo this week, especially now that the storm has strengthened considerably and now is headed toward Bermuda. The Net activated late Monday afternoon, October 13 on its primary frequency of 14.325 MHz, subsequently shifting to its 40 meter back-up frequency of 7.268 as propagation dropped out on 20 meters.

“Even though it appeared we had good propagation to the affected area — the northern Leeward Islands and the British and US Virgin Islands — reporting stations were light,” said HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV. “One reporting station, VP2VQ, was extremely strong and gave us great information. Even after moving over to 40 meters, stations in Trinidad were booming in to the eastern and southern United States.”

The Net stood down at about 0300 UTC on October 14 after Gonzalo took a turn to the north and away from the British Virgin Islands. By midweek, however, Gonzalo had gained strength and was a Category 4 hurricane with Bermuda in its sights. The Hurricane Watch Net is making preparations to activate midday Thursday or early Friday morning. The storm is forecast to reach Bermuda on Friday morning, Graves said, but if the storm tracks a bit more to the east, it could make direct landfall on the island.

“The people of Bermuda are still picking up from damage caused by Tropical Storm Fay, which did make direct landfall this past Sunday morning,” Graves pointed out. “I’ve already been in contact with a few hams on Bermuda, and antennas that weren’t destroyed by Fay are being taken down and being secured. In order to get on the air, they have constructed 20 meter dipoles, either as an outside NVIS antenna or attic antenna.”

As of 1500 UTC, a Hurricane Watch was in effect for Bermuda. The NHC was reporting that Gonzalo was some 640 miles south-southwest of Bermuda, packing sustained winds of 130 MPH. It is moving about 12 MPH.

The Net is preparing to activate Thursday at 2100 UTC on 14.325 MHz, switching to 7.268 MHz at 0100 UTC on Friday. The net will secure for the night and resume Friday at 1000 UTC on 14.325 MHz. These plans are subject to change.

“We will be collecting surface observations and reporting them directly to the National Hurricane Center (NHC),” Graves said. “We will also be available to provide backup communications for emergency operation centers, emergency management agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other vital interests. Graves said any hurricane preparation or response could also involve military relief operations.

“Amateur stations in the affected area should be aware of the storm, and be prepared to operate from a place of safety,” Graves continued, expressing the Net’s appreciation for a clear frequency and for assisting with relays.

More information on Hurricane Gonzalo and the Hurricane Watch Net is on the HWN website.




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