Tropical Storm Ernesto Heads Toward Yucatán; WX4NHC, VoIP Weather Net and Hurricane Watch Net Activated
As Tropical Storm Ernesto barrels toward Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, forecasters have issued a hurricane warning for the entire coast of Belize and from Chetumal to Punta Allen on the East Coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Ernesto is expected to reach hurricane strength before it reaches the Yucatan sometime later tonight. Radio amateurs with WX4NHC -- the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, Florida -- and the VoIP Hurricane Net will activate at 6 PM EDT (2200 UTC), while the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) will activate at 1 PM EDT (1700 UTC) on August 7 in anticipation of the storm.
As of 8 AM EDT, Ernesto was located about 250 miles east of Belize Cite and about 180 miles northeast of Isla Roatan, off the coast of Honduras. Maximum sustained winds are near 65 miles per hour with higher gusts. Strengthening is expected, and Ernesto is forecast to become a hurricane before it reaches the Yucatán Peninsula, but should weaken as it moves over land.
Ernesto is moving toward the west-northwest near 13 miles per hour. According to the NHC, this general motion is expected to continue through Tuesday night, followed by a turn toward the west on Wednesday, August 8. The center of the storm will be passing north of the coast of Honduras on Tuesday and will approach the East Coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in the evening. Ernesto’s center is should then move across the Yucatán Peninsula sometime early Wednesday and emerge over the bay of Campeche in the afternoon.
WX4NHC is monitoring the Hurricane Watch Net on 14.325 MHz. Secondary HF frequencies will be 7.268 MHz and 3.950 MHz +/- QRM, should propagation be lost on 20 meters. EchoLink “WX-Talk” Conference Room and IRLP node 9219 is also being monitored. WX4NHC is also monitoring CWOP, APRS and MADIS/MESONET automated weather stations in the affected area. Surface reports using WX4NHC’s Online Hurricane Report form are also being monitored.
“We request all land based stations, as well as ships at sea in the areas affected, to send us weather data (measured or estimated) and damage reports,” said WX4NHC Assistant Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R. “If you are in the affected area and normally monitor on a local net on VHF, 40 or 80 meters, we would appreciate your checking into the HWN NET or EchoLink/IRLP Net once per hour to receive the latest hurricane advisories and to report your local conditions.”
Hurricane Watch Net
The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) will activate for Tropical Storm Ernesto beginning at 1 PM EDT (1700 UTC). According to Stan Broadway, N8BHL, the HWN will be active on 14.325 MHz to report conditions to the NHC. “Amateur stations in the affected area should be aware of the storm, and be prepared to operate from a place of safety,” he said. “We will be looking for condition reports from stations in the affected area. We do appreciate the consideration of amateur operators in keeping our frequency clear, and listening for possible relays.”
Any station located within 100 miles of the eye of the hurricane, or in a watch or warning area, is encouraged to check in to the HWN. Within this group, those who are already experiencing 30 knots or greater of wind or a falling barometer should definitely respond when the net control asks, “Are there any stations in the affected area needing a fill or wish to check in?” As the hurricane approaches landfall, the net control will narrow requests to a specific area or ask only for stations experiencing certain conditions, such as winds at 50 knots or greater. The HWN will also provide backup communications facilities to official agencies, such as Emergency Operations Centers and Red Cross officials in the affected area, as well as collect and report significant damage assessment data back to FEMA officials stationed at the NHC.
VoIP Hurricane Net
The VoIP Hurricane Net will be also be active for Ernesto, beginning at 6 PM (2200 UTC) for as long as required to support WX4NHC with surface reports from stations within the affected area, or to receive reports from from amateurs who have contacts within the affected area who can relay information from those contacts. Stations can connect via EchoLink by connecting to the *WX_TALK* EchoLink conference node 7203, as well as via IRLP through IRLP reflector 9219. Several listen-only components for stations have been set up for those who don’t have contact with the affected area, enabling them to monitor the hurricane net. The listen-only information is posted in the VoIP hurricane net activation announcement on the VoIP Hurricane Net website.
In addition to the hurricane warning, forecasters have also issued a tropical storm warning the coast of Honduras from the Honduras/Nicaragua border westward to Punta Sal, including the Bay Islands. The warning is also in effect for areas north of Punta Allen to Cancun on the East Coast of the Yucatán Peninsula and from Celestun southward to Chilitepec along the West Coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the coast of Honduras from west of Punta Sal to the Honduras/Guatemala border.