The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) has announced plans to activate for the now-Category 4 Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, September 5, at 1800 UTC on 14.325 MHz. The net will remain in continuous operation until further notice, continuing on 20 meters for as long as propagation allows, then switching to 40 meters, 7.268 MHz. If propagation dictates, the HWN will operate on both 20 and 40 meters at the same time. HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said the net will pause at 1130 UTC to allow the Waterway Net to conduct its daily session. “Should an emergency arise, there will be someone trained to handle the situation,” he said.
The VoIP Hurricane Net has announced that it will activate no later than 2200 UTC on Tuesday, and WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) will activate at 2200 UTC on Tuesday. Any Amateur Radio operators in the affected area of Irma or with relays into the affected area of Irma are asked to provide surface and damage reports into the VoIP Hurricane Net for relay into WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center. Any SKYWARN Nets active in the local area as Irma moves into Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands that can pass reports to the VoIP Hurricane Net for relay into WX4NHC are asked to designate a net liaison or connect directly to the *WX_TALK* EchoLink conference node: 7203/IRLP 9219. Stations on All-Star can connect to the Echolink side of the system by dialing *033007203.
As of 2100 UTC, Irma was some 490 miles east of the Leeward Islands, with maximum sustained winds of 130 MPH, moving to the west at about 13 MPH. It is forecast to gain strength over the next 24 hours, and tropical storm-force winds should reach Antigua and Barbuda early Tuesday evening. “Over the next 48 hours, the islands of Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts & Nevis, Anguilla, the US and British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico will be affected,” Graves said.
Irma is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 3 to 6 inches across the Leeward Islands, with isolated maximum amounts of 10 inches across the northern Leeward Islands. Users are reminded to not focus on the exact forecast track since strong winds and heavy rainfall extend well away from the center.
The National Hurricane Center says Irma is expected to affect the northeastern Leeward Islands as a dangerous major hurricane, accompanied by life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall. Hurricane warnings are in effect for portions of the Leeward Islands. Preparations should be rushed to completion, as tropical-storm force winds are expected to first arrive in the hurricane warning area by late Tuesday.
There is an increasing that Hurricane Irma will affect the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys later this week and this weekend. Otherwise, it is still too early to determine what direct impacts Irma might have on the continental US. Everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have a hurricane plan in place.