In Nevada, Hams Are NWS's Eyes
With winter upon us, and inclement weather coming almost daily in one form or another, the wind and its treatment of mountaintop equipment is a major concern. According to ARRL Nevada Section Emergency Coordinator Don Carlson, KQ6FM, the mountains of Northern Nevada take their share of beatings, but he said that in this case, "winter has certainly come in like a lion. On December 19, a major winter storm hit the area, bringing with it hurricane-force winds to high elevations." Gusts of more than 140 miles per hour battered the mountain, damaging sensitive electronic weather gear, including the NEXRAD radar system used by the National Weather Service office in Reno.
"Fortunately, Northwest Nevada has a very active team of amateurs who are members of the National Weather Service's SKYWARN weather spotter program," Carlson said. "Since the demise of the radar system, NWS Reno has asked spotters to assist by providing real-time weather information via Amateur Radio."
Carlson said that Dee Arnold, KA7LOZ, manned WX7RNO, the amateur station at the NWS Reno office to take reports that came in from a very large area of the region. At times when no one is available to actually be on site, weather service personnel turn the 2 meter radio on and monitor reports that can be delivered at any time of the day or night. "We will have to be their eyes for the time being until the radar site can be accessed and repaired, which may not be for some time and could be several weeks," Arnold said.
Spotters file reports on the Wide Area Data Club's high-level linked system that covers a good portion of both Northern Nevada and North Central California. "The Amateur Radio SKYWARN weather spotters will remain on duty giving reports until further notice, as another storm approaches the area over Christmas," Carlson recounted. "Amateurs have also been providing highway information over mountain passes during the recent flurry of early winter storms."