The National Hurricane Center (NHC), Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Hurricane Net, and the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) have all been engaged in tracking Hurricane Fiona.
Radio amateurs have been reporting weather conditions since Monday, September 19, 2022 and have received positive feedback on their assistance. Hurricane Net VoIP was active for 14 continuous hours on Sunday, September 18 for Hurricane Fiona, as it hit southern and southwestern portions of Puerto Rico with disastrous rains and flooding under hurricane-force conditions. .
In the ARRL section of Puerto Rico, Public Information Coordinator (PIC) Angel L. Santana-Diaz, WP3GW, who lives in Trujillo Alto, reported widespread power outage when the hurricane made landfall on the island. Still, he explained, there were amateur radio repeaters that remained on the air with amateurs sharing reports of damage, including downed trees and utility poles, and roofs torn from homes. ARRL member Pedro S. Labayen, KP4DKE, of Utuado, was mentioned in a Miami Herald article for reporting the extensive damage to his rural and mountainous part of the island.
The NHC has issued advisories for Hurricane Fiona and Tropical Storm Gaston. Marine warnings are also in effect for the Caribbean and South West Atlantic. At 2:00 p.m. EDT (6:00 p.m. UTC) Thursday, September 22, the NHC reported that Hurricane Fiona is expected to pass just west of Bermuda by late Thursday evening, approaching Nova Scotia Friday. and move across Nova Scotia and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Saturday. Fiona is a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (215 km/h) with higher gusts.
Prior to the hurricane, the Radio Society of Bermuda activated its Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) on Wednesday, September 21 at 1:43 p.m. ET and plans to have 14 active amateurs monitoring the hurricane network. Plans are to use local repeaters, unless there is a loss of power then they will go simplex. They are currently monitoring 14.283 MHz and will continue to monitor this frequency.
The HWN will be activated on Thursday, September 22 at 5:00 p.m. EDT/AST (2100 UTC) on the main frequency of 14.325 MHz. Activation of the 40-meter network on 7.268 MHz will take place at 7:00 p.m. EDT/AST (2300 UTC). The net will be on 20 yards for as long as the spread allows and will remain active on 40 yards until no longer needed or the spread stops.
However, if Hurricane Fiona makes direct landfall, operations will resume Friday, September 23 at 9:00 a.m. EDT/AST (1:00 p.m. UTC) to facilitate post-storm reporting and any outbound health and wellness traffic, which would be directed to SATERN.
HWN manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, offered some suggestions for amateur radio operators hitting the net.
“We are looking for reporting stations that can provide us with any measured or estimated weather information that we can relay directly to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. This weather information we are looking for is maximum sustained winds, wind gusts, wind direction, barometric pressure and amount of precipitation – how long over x period, storm surge and damage,” Graves said. “Additionally, if you have outbound health and wellness traffic before, during or after this event, we are happy to help as we work closely with the emergency radio network of the team of the ‘Salvation Army.”
Graves also said, as a reminder, that the HWN is available to provide emergency communications to official agencies, such as emergency operations centers, American Red Cross officials and storm shelters in the affected area. They also collect and transmit important damage assessment data to government and non-government officials.
Radio amateurs wishing to monitor or participate in hurricane networks should visit these two useful and informative links:
Special thanks to HWN maintainer Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, and ARRL PIC Angel L. Santana-Diaz, WP3GW for the information in this article.