Hurricane Grace and Hurricane Henri have drawn the attention of weather observers over the past week. The Hurricane Monitoring Network (HWN), which tracked the two storms to collect weather data for the National Hurricane Center (NHC), was able to secure operations at 1800 UTC on August 22 after seeing Grace make landfall twice in Mexico.
“Things got really busy and fast,” said Bobby Graves, director of HWN, KB5HAV. “Just before the activation at 1200 UTC [on Sunday], Henri was downgraded from Category 1 hurricane to tropical storm. Normally, we – HWN – don’t fire up for tropical storms. However, since the wind speed at the time of activation was just below that of a hurricane, there was a low possibility for Henry to regain Category 1 status. ”And, Graves noted, the storm was heading towards the densely populated northeastern United States. The rainfall generated by Henri, some of which broke records, caused heavy flooding in some areas, including New York. This storm hit near Westerly, Rhode Island, which suffered most of the region’s power outages among 80,000 customers (of 130,000 who went extinct).
In total, HWN racked up a combined total of 27 hours of airtime – with two activations for Hurricane Grace and two for Hurricane Henri. Graves said only one station was reported in Mexico, but the network remained available to help with any capacity needed.
It was a different story for Henri. “We had no shortage of reporting stations, and that’s a good thing,” Graves said. “Although maybe not as many as we would like, we certainly had a good number of records and transmission of their data.”
He said conditions, although improved in recent years with the acceleration of Solar Cycle 25, have become difficult. “Sometimes we were going through a one-way spread. For example, on Sunday, the NCS on duty was heard by a station in the affected area but could not hear the reporting station, ”Graves said. “His relay could hear the reporting station, but that station could not hear the relay. So the NCS asked the questions, and the Relay received the report. This is called “teamwork”.
Graves is thankful that Henri was not as bad as he could have been. “He never really organized, unlike storms like Sandy in 2012 and Bob in 1991,” he said. “If Henri had been another Sandy, the outcome would have been much worse. We have all been lucky and blessed in this regard.
It was a different story with Grace, which made landfall in the Mexican state of Veracruz, just south of Túxpam, as a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 MPH, causing several deaths. “Grace tied the record (with Karl in 2010) for being the strongest hurricane on record in Campeche Bay,” Graves said. Once it made landfall, however, Grace quickly dissipated on the Mexican mainland, while her remnants then reformed into Tropical Storm Marty in the eastern Pacific early Monday morning.
Julio Ripoll, WD4R, at the National Hurricane Center, also congratulated members of the VoIP Hurricane Network for being extremely supportive of WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center. “They are a vital part of the WX4NHC team and are part of our elite group which we call ‘Hurricane Hams’.”
Over the weekend, Eastern Massachusetts ARES® Section Emergency Coordinator Rob Macedo, KD1CY, who also manages the Hurricane VoIP network, announced tentative plans for the Commonwealth ahead of the arrival of ‘Henri. These included coordination with ARES® and SKYWARN teams in the region and with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
“It was 2 extremely busy days with Henri and 2 days before we had to deal with flash floods and two small tornadoes in southern New England due to the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred,” said Macedo . The storm also cut down trees across the region.
Ripoll said the NHC and WX4NHC rely heavily on the work of hurricane nets and appreciate the time and effort put into collecting surface reports from stations in affected areas. “These area reports are vital for NHC because they paint a picture of physical conditions at ground level in real time,” he said. “We are all working as a team with a common goal of helping NHC, which will help people in affected areas and hopefully help save lives.”
NHC Senior Hurricane Specialist Stacy Stewart praised VoIP Hurricane Net and HWN, calling the amateur radio reports “extremely helpful.”
On August 25, Graves was already monitoring another possible storm, Tropical Depression 9.
“We are quickly entering the heart of hurricane season,” said Graves. “All computer models provide [Tropical Depression 9] above or very near the Yucatan Peninsula and in and over the very warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Once in the Gulf, that storm could go anywhere… most show either a Texas or Louisiana – maybe even Mississippi – landing on Sunday or Monday, ”Graves said. The question for now is, what will be the intensity of this system?