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Hurricane Watch Net Currently Not Active but Still Eyeing José


The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) suspended operations for Hurricanes Irma, José, and Katia on September 11 at 2100 UTC, after being continuously active for more than 6 days, said HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV. Now, Hurricane José, a Category 1 storm, is the sole storm in the HWN’s sights.

“We remain at Alert Level 2 — Monitoring Mode,” Graves said. “People along the US East Coast should closely monitor this storm, as they could possibly be affected early next week.”

The National Hurricane Center said at 1500 UTC today that José was some 450 miles north-northeast of Grand Turk Island, and 645 miles north-northwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Maximum sustained winds are 75 MPH, and José is moving slowly eastward at 5 MPH with little change in strength, the NHC said.

Last week, as most eyes were focused on Hurricane Irma, the HWN found itself also tracking Hurricanes José and Katia. “We were facing something HWN had never done before — working three land-falling hurricanes during the same net activation,” Graves said. Katia made landfall on September 8 north of Tecolutla, Mexico as a Category 1 storm.

As Irma’s presence was being felt across the British and US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, Graves said that solar flares — including a massive X-class flare —severely hampered net operations. The flare, believed to have been the most powerful in more than a decade, caused a near-total radio blackout for most of Wednesday morning and early afternoon.

“Hurricane José gave everyone a scare as the eye passed just north of Barbuda, the first island that took a direct hit from Irma earlier in the week,” Graves noted. “Barbuda did receive tropical storm force winds for several hours.”

Early on Sunday morning, the Dutch Red Cross on Aruba contacted Graves asking if he could post information about available services on the HWN website. Then, around midday on Sunday, September 10, another X-class solar flare hobbled the HF bands for several hours.

Hurricane Irma made landfall near Naples, Florida, shortly after 5 PM EDT on Sunday as a Category 2 storm and weakened to a tropical storm on September 11.

“Once Irma was downgraded to a Tropical Storm, our focus shifted to collecting post-storm reports and handling emergency and priority traffic only,” Graves said. “It wasn’t long before we heard from the Coast Guard Cutter USS Ingraham in Key West, which had suffered damage and needed assistance. We relayed information they needed to help make temporary repairs using materials they had onboard.”

Graves said he got word from Aruba on Monday that a cruise ship was transporting all non-critical hospital patients from Sint Maarten/Saint-Martin to Curaçao.

“Considering the poor band conditions, not to mention the solar flares, members of the Hurricane Watch Net persevered and did everything possible to help those in harm’s way,” Graves concluded.