“We Are Ready!” 2014 WX4NHC On-the-Air Station Test a Success
The National Hurricane Center’s WX4NHC May 31 on-the-air station test was a success, according to WX4NHC Amateur Radio Assistant Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R. WX4NHC conducts the event each year in preparation for hurricane season, which began June 1 and continues through November.
“We had the best annual station test that I can remember,” Ripoll said this week. “Hopefully we will not have to activate for a hurricane this season, but it is good to know that our equipment worked well, in case the need arises. We are ready, not just for us in sunny South Florida, but for everyone along the US East Coast and in the Caribbean. Thank you for your support.”
WX4NHC made 308 contacts during 9 hours of operation, with contacts ranging from local VHF/UHF stations in South Florida and the Florida Keys to as far away as Guam. Surface reports were received from 25 states as well as from several countries, including Bermuda, Canada, Cuba, Curacao, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, Ripoll said. WX4NHC even spoke with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, via EchoLink.
Ripoll said it helped that one of the WX4NHC operators was Dominican Republic native Julio Henriquez, AD4Z, an internationally recognized DXer and contester. Henriquez will compete in the World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC-2014) next month in New England.
WX4NHC was tested on various bands and modes. The Center also checked out its Winlink, EchoLink, IRLP, and APRS capabilities, among other communication systems. All radio equipment and antennas performed well, and WX4NHC logged “the most contacts made during this event in memory,” Ripoll said, despite poor HF propagation and the fact that WX4NHC also was testing equipment, training operators on new modes, and “tweaking” its computer software.
“The WX4NHC test event is also good practice for Amateur Radio operators worldwide, but especially in hurricane prone areas, to test their station's ability to contact WX4NHC, should they need to during a hurricane,” Ripoll continued. “It was also a good opportunity for National Weather Service (NWS) staff to become aware of the unique capabilities of Amateur Radio during severe weather and disaster communications, when conventional communication modes fail.”
This year WX4NHC received D-STAR/D-RATS for the first time, as a result of the efforts of John Davis, WB4QDX, who organized and coordinated the effort. “Although we do not currently have a D-STAR radio at WX4NHC, we did receive 51 surface weather reports via the D-RATS form at WX4NHC,” Ripoll reported. “These reports may someday fill in a very important gap in surface data during a hurricane that we could not receive on other modes.”
WX4NHC also was in contact with the National Weather Center Office in Norman, Oklahoma, emergency operations centers in Broward and Marion counties, Florida, and the Guantanamo Bay military base.
Ripoll expressed appreciation to SKYWARN volunteers and to ARRL Emergency Preparations Manager Mike Corey KI1U, for supporting the annual exercise.