The 13th Annual SKYWARN Recognition Day Set for December 3
The 13th Annual SKYWARN Recognition Day (SRD) Special Event will take place Saturday, December 3, 2011. SRD is co-sponsored by the ARRL and the National Weather Service (NWS) as a way to recognize the commitment made by Amateur Radio operators in helping to keep their communities safe. According to SRD Coordinator David Floyd, N5DBZ, Amateur Radio operators can visit their local participating NWS office, working as a team to contact other hams across the world throughout the 24 hour event.
The idea for the first SRD took shape in the summer of 1999. Meteorologist-in-Charge of the Goodland, Kansas NWS office Scott Mentzer, N0QE, tried to find a way to recognize the valuable contributions storm spotters make to the National Weather Service. “Since many of those storm spotters were also hams,” Floyd told the ARRL, “it seemed like a natural fit for the recognition to be centered on Amateur Radio.”
With the approval of NWS headquarters and a commitment to participate from many local NWS offices across the country, the first National Weather Service Special Event took place on November 27, 1999. “At the end of the event, almost 16,000 QSOs were logged, with contacts made to all 50 states and 63 countries,” Floyd recounted. “The Des Moines forecast office took the honor of making the most contacts of any office that first year with 761 QSOs, and went on to lead the pack until 2003 by logging between 1300-1500 contacts each year.”
Floyd said that feedback from that first event was “overwhelmingly positive” from both the NWS staff and the local ham clubs: “Many local club members who came to that first event had never visited an NWS office before. When they came for the special event, they learned the value of their reports and how they were used in conjunction with existing technology.”And so began an annual tradition. The following year, 85 of the 122 NWS offices -- almost 70 percent -- participated in the event, making nearly 24,000 QSOs.
In 2001, the name of the event was changed to SKYWARN Recognition Day, a name Floyd said better relayed what the day was all about: “Each year since the inception of SRD, the number of NWS offices participating with local ham clubs has increased; more than 100 offices sign up each year to take part. The most contacts made during any SRD occurred in 2006 when -- thanks to and local hams in the Grand Junction, Colorado area -- 1640 QSOs were logged!”
Station call signs have also changed over the years. Floyd said that some NWS offices and clubs apply for a special event call sign, “such as W3B in Brownsville or N0Y in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Other call signs hint at office location, including WX9GRB in Green Bay and WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center. Still others represent more of the big picture, as in KC0SKY in Pleasant Hill, Missouri.”
Floyd said that as SKYWARN Recognition Day has grown throughout the years, he has seen a greater use of digital communications in addition to CW, RTTY and packet radio: “Each year, more and more contacts are being made using EchoLink, Winlink and the use of e-mail reflectors.” In keeping with the NWS setting, stations are asked to include a weather report of their location in their exchange.
In 2010, the NWS office in Grand Junction, Colorado -- using the Special Event call sign N0W -- topped the QSO list with 934 QSOs; the Lincoln, Illinois office (K0DMX), with 823 QSOs, placed second. Grand Junction also contacted 64 NWS offices, the most reported. Fort Worth, Texas (WX5FWD) was close behind, with 67 QSOs to other NWS offices.
2011 SKYWARN Recognition Day will be held on December 3 from 0000 UTC-2400 UTC. In the past, NWS offices have contacted all 50 states and more than 40 countries during the 24 hour event. Even if you make just one QSO to an NWS office, you are eligible to receive a certificate. Just submit a list of the station(s) you worked (along with a self-addressed stamped envelope) to SKYWARN Recognition Day, 920 Armory Rd, Goodland, KS 67735. Many NWS offices also send out special QSL cards for this event. If you haven’t yet joined in the fun of SKYWARN Recognition Day, make 2011 your year to do so!
Editor’s note: The ARRL recommends its publication Storm Spotting and Amateur Radio as a resource for Amateur Radio operators seeking more information about severe weather reporting and SKYWARN. The book includes a state-by-state listing of SKYWARN Web sites. Storm Spotting and Amateur Radio (ISBN: 978-0-87259-090-8, ARRL Order No. 0908, retail $22.95 plus shipping) is available from ARRL publication dealers and from the ARRL Online Store (telephone 860-594-0355, or toll-free in the US 888-277-5289; www.arrl.org/shop; firstname.lastname@example.org).