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National Hurricane Center Predicts "Near-Normal" Hurricane Season


Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center (NHC) are calling for a "near-normal" Atlantic hurricane season this year. In its initial outlook for the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season -- which runs from June 1-November 30 -- the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) is calling for a 50 percent probability of a near-normal season, a 25 percent probability of an above-normal season and a 25 percent probability of a below-normal season. According to the CPC, global weather patterns are imposing a greater uncertainty in the 2009 hurricane season outlook than in recent years.

Forecasters say there is a 70 percent chance of having nine to 14 named storms, of which four to seven could become hurricanes, including one to three major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5). Tropical systems acquire a name -- the first for 2009 will be Ana -- upon reaching tropical storm strength with sustained winds of at least 39 MPH. Tropical storms become hurricanes when winds reach 74 MPH and become major hurricanes when winds increase to 111 MPH. An average season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes with two becoming major hurricanes.

"This outlook is a guide to the overall expected seasonal activity. However, the outlook is not just about the numbers, it's also about taking action," said Dr Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the CPC. "Prepare for each and every season regardless of the seasonal outlook. Even a near- or below-normal season can produce landfalling hurricanes, and it only takes one landfalling storm to make it a bad season."

Amateur Radio and Hurricanes

Rick Palm, K1CE, editor of the ARRL's ARES E-Letter, warns that now is the time for ARES® members to assess their portfolio of communications equipment and disaster response knowledge. Palm gives several tips for amateurs involved with hurricane operations: 

  •  Monitor major HF hurricane networks during events this season. The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) on 14.325 MHz is one of several key players. It serves either the Atlantic or Pacific during a watch or warning period and coordinates with the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami. Frequent, detailed information is issued on nets when storms pose a threat to the US mainland. In addition to hurricane spotting, local communicators may announce that residents have evacuated from low-lying flood areas. Other amateurs across the country can help by relaying information, keeping the net frequency clear and by listening. See the HWN's Web site for more information. The net works closely with the hams at the NHC's Amateur Radio station WX4NHC

  •  The SATERN Net (Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network) provides emergency communication support to the Salvation Army and populations at large. They also handle health-and-welfare traffic. SATERN holds high profile nets on 20 meters (14.265 MHz) during major hurricanes and has a long history of excellence, discipline and service. Refer to the SATERN Web site for more information.

  •  The Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN) meets on 14.300 MHz and is composed of hams who serve and assist those in need of communications on the high seas. According to its Web site, the primary purpose of the net is for handling traffic from maritime mobile stations. The network is recognized by the United States Coast Guard and has an excellent working relationship with that agency. The MMSN has handled hundreds of incidents involving vessels in distress and medical emergencies in remote locations, as well as passing health and welfare traffic in and out of affected areas. They also work closely with the NWS and NHC by relaying weather reports from maritime stations.

  •  The VoIP SKYWARN and Hurricane Net operates by combining both the EchoLink and IRLP linked repeater networks, while handling critical wide area communications during major severe weather and tropical events. These operations have gained national stature in recent years and is a critical partner with WX4NHC. Whenever tropical weather is imposing a threat to the US mainland and certain other areas of interest, the VoIP WX net will be fully operational. See the VoIP SKYWARN and Hurricane Net Web site for more information.

Palm said that during hurricane events, there are usually two or three regional nets (usually on 40 or 20 meters) that spring to prominence as major key assets to the disaster response on an ad hoc basis. "Watch for these nets, as well as the nationally recognized networks described above, this season. Don't transmit on their frequencies unless you are absolutely sure you have something substantive to add, and then only under the direction of the net control station," Palm advised.

ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Dennis Dura, K2DCD, added that when ARES activates in response to any tropical event, it is crucial that information flows up through the Section and is reported to Headquarters. "These reports allow us to develop the situational awareness and disaster intelligence that is required for us as an organization to support the Sections that are impacted" he explained. "In this way, we are able to respond to relevant requests from the media and finally to coordinate with the governmental and non-governmental organizations. This information also allows us to make the decision at Headquarters on whether to stand up our Incident Management Team to support and coordinate the operations."

If you are interested in Emergency Communications, please be sure to check out the monthly ARES E-Letter. You can elect to receive this newsletter free of charge via e-mail by going to the Member Data Page on the ARRL Web site.



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