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Radio Amateurs Track Major East Coast Winter Storm


WX1BOX, the Amateur Radio Station at the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Taunton, Massachusetts joined numerous SKYWARN nets across New England in activating for an early-January nor’easter that brought significant coastal flooding, damaging winds — with hurricane-force wind gusts downing trees and power lines — and heavy snow accumulations to the region. The eastern coast of New England experienced high snowfall rates, whiteout conditions, and even “thunder snow.” A dramatic drop in barometric pressure generated a so-called “bomb cyclone.”

WX1BOX was active for 16.5 hours, supporting data gathering for the NWS. Local and state emergency managers, broadcast media, and other agencies also used these reports for situational awareness during the storm and to assess the need for any later recovery efforts.

“A widespread 8 to 18 inches of snow fell across Southern New England away from Cape Cod and the Islands. There were reports of thunderstorms with snowfall rates in the 2 to 3 inches per hour range,” said Rob Macedo, KD1CY, Eastern Massachusetts Assistant Section Emergency Coordinator and NWS Taunton SKYWARN liaison. “Wind gusts between 70 and 76 MPH were recorded over Cape Cod and the Islands, and wind gusts in the 40-70 MPH range were common across the rest of Southern New England.”

Macedo said the severe and widespread coastal flooding in some eastern Massachusetts locations was at the higher end of coastal flood events experienced in the last 10 years or so.

WX1BOX posted a report, with details on snowfall amounts, winds, coastal flooding, wind damage, and photos and videos from the storm on its Facebook page.

Cape Cod Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) was active at the Barnstable County Mutual Aid Coordination Center (MACC), convening ARES/SKYWARN nets and providing wind damage and coastal flood reports from their region. For the most part, Cape Cod and the Islands received rain, which was followed by a period of snow as temperatures dropped. The resulting “flash freeze” conditions led to dangerously icy roadways. Damaging winds causing scattered power outages and coastal flooding were the biggest problems, with an inch or two of rainfall in the area. Staffing the station was Cape Cod ARES District Emergency Coordinator Frank O’Laughlin, WQ1O, and Tom Wruk, KB1QCQ.

The Peabody Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was active on the Massachusetts North Shore, and the EOC served as a net control point for SKYWARN nets in the North Shore area. Coastal flooding reports from the North Shore and surrounding areas and snowfall totals were relayed to WX1BOX and other agencies from their nets. Staffing the EOC station were North Shore ARES DEC Jim Palmer, KB1KQW; Matt Knowles, KC1AEI, and Dave Pais, N1VSI.

At the Eastern Massachusetts ARES section level, ARES went on standby for any agency needs or to support any local ARES activations by Eastern Massachusetts ARES SEC Marek Kozubal, KB1NCG. Local nets were active on approximately 10 different repeaters across the NWS Taunton coverage area. The New England Echolink/IRLP reflector system was also active, with reporting stations from across New England, supplemented by a tie-in to the conference node typically used by the VoIP Hurricane Net.

An offer of assistance came from members of Illinois SKYWARN, including a team member who handles SKYWARN for WX9LOT, the Amateur Radio station at the NWS Chicago/Romeoville office. Debby Gray, WX9VOR, and Joe Perry, K9JPP, assisted by monitoring Echolink and supported data entry of snowfall reports from the region.

“This demonstrated a ‘virtual EOC’ approach to storm monitoring utilizing out-of-area resources to support a storm incident with local personnel providing local perspective.

Operators at WX1GYX, the Amateur Radio station at the Gray, Maine, NWS Office, were active all day on January 4, gathering reports from various sources via 2-meter FM, DMR, and HF. Tim Watson, KB1HNZ, and Eric Emery, KC1HJK, handled net control duties, with support from Waylon McDonald, KC1HJN, and members of Mt. Washington Valley ARES. — Thanks to Rob Macedo, KD1CY, and Tim Watson, KB1HNZ