WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, reports that it’s tested and ready for the 2015 Hurricane Season, which begins June 1 and continues through November. WX4NHC conducted its Annual Station Test on May 30, at the end of Hurricane Preparedness Week. This marked the 35th year of volunteer public service by the WX4NHC Group at the NHC. WX4NHC conducts its station test event each year, prior to the Hurricane Season. WX4NHC Amateur Radio Asst. Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R, said the station was tested on many frequencies and modes, including, and that all radio equipment and antennas performed well.
“The WX4NHC test event is also good practice for Amateur Radio operators worldwide, but especially in hurricane prone areas, to test their station’s ability to contact WX4NHC, should they need to during a hurricane,” Ripoll said. “It was also a good opportunity for NWS Office staff to become aware of the unique capabilities of Amateur Radio during severe weather and disaster communications; when conventional communication modes fail.”
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has forecast that the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season will likely be below normal, but, it added, “that’s no reason to believe coastal areas will have it easy.” There are no tropical cyclones in the Atlantic right now, but NWS already has issued advisories on Hurricane Andres in the Eastern Pacific, some 840 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja California. The storm has maximum sustained winds of 140 MPH.
For the 2015 hurricane season, NOAA has predicted a 70 percent likelihood of from six to 11 named storms (winds of 39 MPH or higher), of which three to six could become hurricanes (winds of 74 MPH or higher). That forecast included up to two “major hurricanes” (Category 3, 4, or 5) with winds of 111 MPH or greater.
“A below-normal season doesn’t mean we’re off the hook,” NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, said. “As we’ve seen before, below-normal seasons can still produce catastrophic impacts to communities.”
Ripoll said WX4NHC logged contacts during the test with some emergency communication notables. These included FEMA Adminstrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, on EchoLink and on the Florida UHF SARnet, plus a 20 meter contact with FEMA Chief Technical Officer Ted Okada, N4HNL. WX4NHC also worked ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, and Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV.
“Mike, Bobby, Craig, and Ted all understand very well how Amateur Radio can help their communities during and after severe weather and other natural disasters,” Ripoll said. “We expressed our thanks to all of them for their strong support of the Amateur Radio volunteers and WX4NHC.” Ripoll also expressed appreciation to SKYWARN volunteers.
“You may never know, but your efforts may someday save someone’s life,” he added.
During the 8-hour test, contacts were made and surface reports received from many stations throughout the US, Canada, and countries in the Caribbean, Central, and South America, Ripoll said. He noted that more than 40 D-STAR/D-RATS surface weather reports were received at WX4NHC. John Davis, WB4QDX, coordinated the D-Star/D-RATS net and reporting, Ripoll said.
“We are excited of the potential that D-STAR/D-RATS modes can produce hurricane surface reports in a similar format that is used at WX4NHC,” he said. “These reports may someday fill in a very important gap in surface data during a hurricane that we could not receive on other modes.”
WX4NHC also took part in the Florida State Hurricane Exercise on the UHF SARnet, making contacts throughout Florida and with stations in emergency operations centers. SARnet currently has 25 UHF repeaters connected statewide, including one on the NHC campus.