WX4NHC, VoIP Weather Net and Hurricane Watch Net Activated for Hurricane Alex
With Tropical Storm Alex now Category 1 Hurricane Alex, three Amateur Radio mainstays during the Atlantic hurricane season -- WX4NHC, VoIP Hurricane Net and Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) -- activated at 8 AM EDT on Wednesday, June 30; WX4NHC is the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, Florida. NHC officials are forecasting that Alex should turn more to the west-northwest or west later on Wednesday, with the storm’s center making landfall in Northeastern Mexico within the hurricane warning area late on Wednesday or early Thursday morning.
As of 10 AM CDT on Wednesday, Hurricane Alex was about 130 miles south-southeast of Brownsville, Texas. Moving approximately 12 miles per hour, the storm has maximum sustained winds reaching 85 miles per hour, with some higher gusts reported. Tropical storm winds from Alex are already affecting portions of the Texas and Mexican coast.
On Tuesday, June 29, the NHC issued a hurricane warning for the coast of Texas south of Baffin Bay to the mouth of the Rio Grande, and for the coast of Mexico from the mouth of the Rio Grande to La Cruz. A tropical storm warning was issued for the coast of Texas from Baffin Bay to Port O’Connor, and for the coast of Mexico south of La Cruz to Cabo Rojo. A tornado watch is also in effect through 8 PM CDT on Thursday for South Texas (0100 UTC Friday).
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, as well as EchoLink “WX-Talk” Conference Room and IRLP node 9219. Surface reports using WX4NHC’s Online Hurricane Report form are also being monitored.
The VoIP Hurricane Net will be active for Alex through Thursday morning for as long as required to support WX4NHC with surface reports from stations within the affected area or 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 Web site.
“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.”
The Hurricane Watch Net is also active for Hurricane Alex. “We opened our net operations at 1200 UTC today on 14.325 MHz,” said HWN Manager Dave Lefavour, W7GOX. “We are attempting to contact stations in Northeastern Mexico and South Texas as we try to obtain measured or estimated weather observations. These ground-truth weather observations, from stations in the path of the storm are relayed directly to the NHC. We want our reporting stations to keep in mind that, this year, as last, we’re also prepared to operate the net on 7.168 MHz or 3.668 MHz. If propagation is such that we cannot maintain contact with reporting stations, we’ll open a net on one or the other of those frequencies. Plans are to try 40 meters first, with 80 meters as our last choice of operating bands.”
Although Alex is a category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, it has the potential to become a category 2 hurricane prior to landfall; forecasters are predicting that Alex should gradually weaken after the storm’s center crosses the coastline.
According to the NHC, Alex is a large cyclone and the hurricane force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the it’scenter; Alex’s tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 200 miles, primarily to the northeast, of the center.