The National Hurricane Center (NHC), the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Hurricane Net, and the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) all have been engaged in tracking Hurricane Fiona.Amateur radio operators have been reporting weather conditions since Monday, September 19, 2022, and have received positive feedback on their assistance. The VoIP Hurricane Net was active for 14 continuous hours on Sunday, September 18, for Hurricane Fiona, as it pummeled the southern and southwestern portions of Puerto Rico with catastrophic rainfall and flooding with hurricane-force conditions.
In the ARRL Puerto Rico Section, Public Information Coordinator (PIC) Angel L. Santana-Diaz, WP3GW, who lives in Trujillo Alto, reported a widespread blackout as the hurricane made landfall on the island. Still, he explained, there were ham radio repeaters that remained on the air with amateurs sharing reports of damage, including downed trees and power poles, and roofs ripped from homes. ARRL Member Pedro S. Labayen, KP4DKE, of Utuado, was mentioned in a Miami Herald article for reporting the significant damage to his rural and mountainous region 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 the Southwest Atlantic. As of 2:00 PM EDT (1800 UTC) on Thursday, September 22, the NHC reported that Hurricane Fiona is forecast to pass just west of Bermuda by late Thursday evening, approach Nova Scotia on 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.
In advance of the hurricane, the Radio Society of Bermuda activated their Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) on Wednesday, September 21, at 1:43 PM ET and plans to have 14 active amateurs monitoring the hurricane network. Plans are to use local repeaters, unless there’s a power loss, then they’ll switch to simplex. They’re currently monitoring 14.283 MHz and will continue to monitor that frequency.
The HWN will be activated on Thursday, September 22, at 5:00 PM EDT/AST (2100 UTC) on the primary frequency of 14.325 MHz. Activation for the 40-meter net on 7.268 MHz will be at 7:00 PM EDT/AST (2300 UTC). The net will be on 20 meters for as long as propagation will allow and will remain active on 40 meters until it’s no longer required, or propagation goes away.
However, should Hurricane Fiona make direct landfall, operations will resume on Friday, September 23, at 9:00 AM EDT/AST (1300 UTC) to assist with post-storm reports and any outgoing health and welfare traffic, which would be directed toward SATERN.
HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, offered some suggestions for amateur radio operators contacting the net.
“We look for reporting stations that can provide us with any measured or estimated weather information that we can relay directly to the forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Such weather information we look for is maximum sustained winds, wind gusts, wind direction, barometric pressure, and rainfall amount — how much over x-amount of time, storm surge, and damage,” Graves said. “Also, should you have any outgoing health and welfare traffic before, during, or after this event, we are happy to assist as we work closely with the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network.”
Graves also said, as a reminder, the HWN is available to provide backup communications to official agencies, such as Emergency Operations Centers, American Red Cross officials, and storm shelters in the affected area. They also collect and forward significant damage assessment data to government and non-government officials.
Amateur radio operators who want to monitor or participate in the hurricane nets should visit these two useful and informative links:
The Hurricane Watch Net – Useful Links
VoIP Hurricane Net
Special thanks to HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, and ARRL PIC Angel L. Santana-Diaz, WP3GW for information in this article.