Hurricane Matthew has left a legacy of death and destruction in the Caribbean, and coastal United States. North and South Carolina were declared disaster areas this week, to enable financial assistance to be given. The twenty or so lives lost occurred due to drowning, electrocution, suffocation and crush injuries from falling masonry or trees.
After the longest activation in its more than 50-year history, the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) secured operations for Hurricane Matthew on October 9 at 0400 UTC. HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, reported that the net was in continuous operation for 6 days, 7 hours, gathering real-time ground-truth weather data as the storm passed through the Caribbean and up along the US Eastern Seaboard, and passing the data along to WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Centre. Various Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) nets also activated along the East Coast. The first major hurricane of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season and, at one point, a Category 5 storm, Matthew was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone as it headed out into the Atlantic.
“Many have perished in Haiti and Cuba as a result of Matthew, and the death-toll rises still,” Graves noted. “Many residents in the Bahamas and the US East Coast states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina felt the impact of Matthew as well.” More than 30 died in the US. FEMA reports that power remained out for thousands of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina residents as of October 13. Cell service also was affected.
The VoIP SKYWARN/Hurricane Net attracted a number of visitors, according to net managers. “On board Saturday afternoon, in addition to WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Centre, stations representing a number of FEMA regional offices and the National Response Coordination Centre monitored the net for actionable intelligence to be used to plan recovery operations,” said net Public Affairs Officer Lloyd Colston, KC5FM. The net also activated on October 13.
The Salvation Army Team Emergency Network, or SATERN, was also active for Matthew on 14.265MHz, handling outbound emergency, priority, or health-and-welfare traffic from hurricane-affected areas.
Among activities in South Carolina, ARES volunteers staffed evacuation shelters, with radio amateurs coming from outside the affected areas to help. “Overall, I believe the radio operators that were available for the event did an outstanding job and I am proud to know them,” said South Carolina Section Emergency Coordinator Joe Markey, AJ4QM.
The Hurricane Watch Net activated again for several hours on October 13 for Hurricane Nicole, after a hurricane warning went into effect for Bermuda. The NHC at one point called Hurricane Nicole an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 125 MPH. The VoIP Hurricane Net also activated to monitor online weather stations and storm bloggers from the Caribbean Hurricane Network as well as social media. Fortunately, Nicole abated without coming ashore.
Thank you to the ARRL Letter of 13 October for these details.
However, over the Philippines, Tropical Cyclone SARIKA-16 is starting to make its presence felt. With wind-speeds of up to 270kph, it has barrelled across the Northern half of the Philippines, and is headed for China as I write this, with 19 million people threatened by the high winds. And hot on its heels is Cyclone HAIMA-16 slightly more to the North, but following the same North-Westerly direction, and about a day behind SARIKA. So far, it has not had an effect on people and property.
The Jamboree On The Air, or JOTA event is on the air today. I am aware of many scout group stations being on the air around the country. Of course, CQ Hou Koers is also on the go, but it seems to me that the solar weather is not playing ball, and I wonder whether long-distance communications are a success. There was a geomagnetic storm in process yesterday, with K index hovering at 4 to 5, making HF bands unfriendly. Scout and Voortrekker members are a wonderful incubator group, from which to cultivate new amateurs and HAMNET members of the future, so I hope you are either assisting at a JOTA station, or else looking around the bands, and making contacts with whoever you can hear, promoting an interesting and worthwhile hobby, and perhaps a career for some young people.
The Tsogo Sun Amashova Cycle Race is taking place today, from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. Ten HAMNET members are situated at various strategic points, using two repeaters and a simplex channel. Unfortunately the situation amongst students in University towns like Pietermaritzburg means that the organisers and riders have been advised to choose their routes to the start carefully, avoiding troubled main roads. I hope we can report a safe and successful race, next week. Thank you to Keith ZS5WFD for keeping me in the loop.
In an attempt to attract the Radio Amateur Exam candidates, who will be writing on Thursday evening, to the world of emergency communications and HAMNET, I have been interacting with them as a group, sending them information and encouragement. While looking through available links and sites on the internet, I came across a blog called NewHams.info, posted by Jim Peisker, AF5NP. This blog is full of short takes on so many things which older and more experienced hams take for granted, like how and why repeaters work, interference issues, antenna advice, and the likes. I still regard myself as a new ham, forgetting stuff as fast as I learn it, although I got my licence in 1993! My point is that this blog is for everyone, so, if you’ve got a query about some technical issue, and are not sure where to look it up, go to http://NewHams.info and look at the categories down the right hand side of the page. There are bound to be some answers there to your queries.
My very best wishes to the prospective new hams writing the exam on the 20th.
This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.