National Hurricane Center Director Joins WX4NHC Annual Test
On Saturday, May 31, WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center (NHC), held their annual Communications Test from 1300-2100 UTC. According to WX4NHC Assistant Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R, this annual test has two purposes: To verify that ham radio equipment will not interfere with any equipment at the NHC, and to ensure proper performance of Amateur Radio equipment at the NHC.
During the test, NHC Director Bill Read, KB5FYA, addressed the Amateur Radio community on the VoIP Hurricane Net and on the Hurricane Watch Net. Read spoke about the importance of Amateur Radio in hurricane-related disasters and thanked Amateur Radio operators for their support in past hurricanes. He encouraged hams to continue to provide that strong support as WX4NHC enters its 28th year of service and the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season begins. Read made several contacts with Amateur Radio operators during the test.
"We all know how important it is to maintain communications during a hurricane to relay our hurricane warnings to those in the affected area which may have no other means to receive this vital information," Read said. "We are also very appreciative for the surface reports from those in the storm which add to our database and help our forecasters better visualize what is actually happening at the ground level in real time. As our own ham radio station, WX4NHC, celebrates its 28th year of volunteer service at the National Hurricane Center, we extend our thanks to all ham radio operators that continue to support our mission to help save lives."
Ripoll, calling the annual test "very successful," thanked all the amateurs involved and called on them for their support as the hurricane season starts up. During the test Ripoll and his crew also completed antenna work in preparation for the season.
Ripoll said that the WX4NHC Annual Station Test started very early on Saturday with three of the operators replacing the main HF dipole. "The dipole runs from the 100 foot tower to the top of the Hurricane Center Building and was reinstalled with a better orientation so that the main effective lobes run SE and NW," he said. "This will improve reception to the Caribbean, as well as the US Gulf area. It took three hours of bringing the dipole up and down to fine tune the SWR down to 1:1.2, but it was worth the effort. Stations monitoring our antenna tests reported improvements of 3 to 6 dB at their locations. We are very happy with the results of this new antenna installation."
It was good timing for the test as the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season started on the same day, albeit one day earlier than it was scheduled: Tropical Storm Arthur formed from the remnants of Pacific Tropical Storm Alma over Central America. Arthur did weaken, but was responsible for very heavy rains and flooding over portions Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Mexico. This is the second straight year in which a tropical system formed prior to the start of the Atlantic hurricane season.
WX4NHC made 346 contacts during this event: 291 on HF and 55 on EchoLink/IRLP. They heard from 23 states and US territories, as well as such foreign locales as Bermuda, Curacao, Jamaica, Cuba, Honduras, Estonia and Canada.
"The WX4NHC Coordinators and Operators extend their thanks to all ham radio operators that participated in our Annual Station Test," Ripoll said, "and look forward to your continued support during the hurricane season."