Note: For updated information on Hurricane Harvey visit the National Hurricane Center
Amateur Radio resources are marshaling to assist in the response to Hurricane Harvey, which is expected to make landfall along the Texas coast on Friday (August 25) as a Category 3 storm. It would be the first storm to hit the US coast in more than a decade. The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) already has swung into action, as the storm, which bears the threat not only of high winds but extensive and life-threatening storm surge flooding. Nearly three feet of rain could fall, if, as predicted, Harvey stalls along the Texas shoreline. ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said he and his staff are keeping close watch on Hurricane Harvey.
“Any time a hurricane, particularly a major one such as Harvey, is developing, the ARRL Emergency Preparedness staff takes specific actions,” Corey said. “First, we reach out to our Field Organization for information. We are here to serve them, as they work to provide communication support during a storm response. We also work with our national partners — the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the Red Cross, The Salvation Army, FEMA, SHARES, and National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) members — to help match up potential needs they have with Amateur Radio resources in the field. We also coordinate closely with available Amateur Radio resources, such as SATERN, the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), the VoIP Hurricane Net, and WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the NHC in Miami.” The storm will be the first test for new FEMA Administrator Brock Long, only sworn in two months ago.
ARRL South Texas Section
ARRL South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator Jeff Walter, KE5FGA, said the Section has an incident action plan in place that is updated as necessary.
“We have received calls of support from the Alabama SEC, the Oklahoma SEC, and the North Texas acting SEC,” he told ARRL. “We are asking our members to take care of their families first.”
Walter said when the wind dies down, ARES teams can determine what they can do to assist communities in recovery “by providing real-time information to our served agencies and each other.” He asked ARES members to contact their local Emergency Coordinator to see what the need are. “Members should never just show up at an agency or shelter site,” Walter stressed. “We also want to discourage rumors by getting our information from known, reliable resources.” He said members are encouraged to follow their local emergency communication plans.
National Hurricane Center
As of 0900 UTC, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Harvey, now a Category 2 storm, is some 180 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of 105 MPH. The NHC characterizes Hurricane Harvey as a dangerous storm.
“Harvey is moving toward the northwest at nearly 9 MPH, and this general motion is expected to continue during the next couple of days,” the NHC said. “On the forecast track, Harvey will make landfall on the middle Texas coast tonight or early Saturday. Harvey is then likely to meander near or just inland of the middle Texas coast through the weekend.”
NHC forecasters say some strengthening is possible, and Harvey is expected to become a major hurricane before it reaches the Texas midcoast. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from the storm’s center.
Hurricane Watch Net
The Hurricane Watch Net (see below) activated on August 24 at 1500 UTC on 14.325 MHz, subsequently shifting to 7.268 MHz at 2300 UTC. The net planned to operate overnight and will resume daytime operation on 14.325 MHz at 1200 UTC. “Should band conditions dictate, we will operate both frequencies simultaneously,” Net Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said.
The HWN seeks “observed ground-truth data from those in the affected area,” Graves said, including wind speed, gusts, and direction, barometric pressure, rainfall, damage, and storm surge. “Measured weather data is always appreciated, but we do accept estimated,” Graves said.
He noted that the HWN also is available to provide back-up communication to emergency operations centers and Red Cross officials in the affected area. “We will also be interested to collect and report significant damage assessment data back to FEMA officials stationed in the National Hurricane Center,” Graves added.
The HWN often interfaces directly with the NHC via Amateur Radio, and WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center is set to activate today.
VoIP Hurricane Net
The VoIP Hurricane Net plans to activate for Hurricane Harvey by 1800 UTC today. “The VoIP Hurricane Net for Harvey could be a very prolonged activation, because once Harvey makes landfall, it may parallel the coast and maintain much of its circulation over the ocean, creating the potential for a long-duration activation with significant impact to life and property,” said the Net’s Director of Operations Rob Macedo, KD1CY. “We are looking for reports based on the typical SKYWARN reporting criteria.”
Connect to the VoIP Hurricane Net at *WX_TALK* Echolink conference node: 7203/IRLP 9219. Stations on All-Star can connect to the Echolink side of the system by dialing *033007203.
Katrina Special Event Cancelled
The impending storm has caused the cancellation of a special event related to Hurricane Katrina. The special event marking the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was set for this weekend with many 1 × 1 call signs planned to be active.
Harvey Regains Strength, Hurricane Watch Net Plans to Activate
ARRL News: August 24, 2017
Once downgraded to a tropical depression, the tropical cyclone named Harvey has regained strength in the Gulf of Mexico and been upgraded to a tropical storm. Harvey now is forecast to become a hurricane later today. The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) has upgraded to Alert Level 3 — Standby Mode and announced plans to activate today (August 24) at 1500 UTC on 14.325 MHz, and remain there until 0100 UTC. The HWN will activate on its nighttime frequency of 7.268 MHz at 0000 UTC.
“This will allow us a 1-hour overlap between bands,” said HWN Net Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV. “Should propagation dictate, we will operate on both frequencies simultaneously. Once activated, we will remain active until further notice.”
With Harvey predicted to become a Category 2 hurricane, ARRL South Texas Section ARES has posted communication plans to address Harvey. ARRL South Texas Section Manager Jay Miller, W5WHN, said the section was preparing for the storm's arrival along the South Texas coast.
“Monitor the frequencies in the ICS-205 document, when able,” he advised volunteers.
Satellite imagery shows that Tropical Storm Harvey has more than tripled in size. Harvey would be the first hurricane to make landfall in Texas in 9 years (the last was Ike in 2008). In addition to tropical and hurricane-force winds along the Texas coast and further inland, the main concern with this storm is heavy rain and flooding.
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Port Mansfield to Matagorda, Texas, and a Hurricane Watch is in effect for south of Port Mansfield, Texas, to the mouth of the Rio Grande. Tropical storm watches and warnings have been posted for other areas along the Gulf Coast. Harvey is just short of hurricane strength, with winds of 60 MPH. It's moving north-northwest at 10 MPH.
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) 1200 UTC advisory, Harvey is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 10 to 15 inches with isolated maximums of 25 inches over the Texas coast through next Wednesday.
“During the same time period Harvey is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 3 to 9 inches along its outer radius, including parts of south, central, and eastern Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley,” the NHC advisory continued. “Rainfall from Harvey may cause life-threatening flooding.”
NHC also warned that a combination of a dangerous storm surge and tides “will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.”
“And, when it comes to landfalling tropical systems, never rule out the possibility of spin-off tornadoes,” Graves said.
Graves stressed that the HWN would be looking for “observed ground-truth data from those in the affected area (wind speed, wind gust, wind direction, barometric pressure if available, rainfall, damage, and storm surge).”
“We are also available to provide back-up communications to official agencies such as emergency operations centers and Red Cross officials in the affected area,” Graves added. “We will also be interested to collect and report significant damage assessment data back to FEMA officials stationed in the National Hurricane Center.”
The VoIP Hurricane Net has announced that it will likely activate for Harvey late afternoon on Friday continuing through early Saturday afternoon.
“Any Amateur Radio operators in the affected area of Harvey or with relays into the affected area of Harvey are asked to provide surface and damage reports into the VoIP Hurricane Net,” said the net’s Director of Operations Rob Macedo, KD1CY. “Any SKYWARN Nets active in the local area that can pass reports to the VoIP Hurricane Net for relay into WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center are welcome to send a net liaison or connect directly at their discretion. We appreciate any and all support from Amateur operators in the affected area or Amateur Operators with relays into the affected area.”