On Tuesday, the whole world watched as a strengthening tropical depression raced across the Gulf, picking up steam as it made landfall in Louisiana and other coastal states.
However, not so publicly known is the role played behind the scenes by amateur radio as a backup emergency communications system during such hurricanes.
When cell phone networks and the Internet go down, old-fashioned ham radio — facilitated by WX4NHC, the amatuer radio station at the National Hurricane Center — keeps emergency communication traffic humming as Hurricane Isaac zeroes in on the Gulf Coast.
From the American Radio Relay League:
As Tropical Storm Isaac moves over the Gulf of Mexico at a speed of about 14 miles per hour, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) say the storm “poses [a] significant storm surge threat to the Northern Gulf Coast.” As of 11 AM (EDT), Isaac is 250 miles south of Apalachicola, Florida, and about 310 miles from Pilottown, Louisiana, the mouth of the Mississippi River.
According to VoIP Hurricane Net Director of Operations Rob Macedo, KD1CY, both the VoIP Hurricane Net and WX4NHC — the Amateur Radio station at the NHC — secured operations at 6:30 PM (EDT) on Sunday, August 26 and will rest on Monday, August 27. “While Isaac is becoming better organized, it remains a tropical storm and is passing through the Florida Keys,” Macedo said. “The new track guidance brings most of Isaac’s effects out over the open Gulf of Mexico for Monday, with the exception of some minimal tropical storm effects along the immediate West Coast of Florida. Latest model guidance and NHC track guidance brings Isaac to the Northern Gulf Coast between Louisiana and Florida on Tuesday into Wednesday, when the next VoIP Hurricane Net and WX4NHC activation is likely to occur.”
To contact WX4NHC with emergency traffic or to listen to the station on High Frequency (HF):
Amateur Radio HF Frequencies – (single sideband mode)
20 meters : 14.325 MHz Hurricane Watch Net (Main frequency during Hurricanes)
40 meters : 7.268 MHz Water Way Net (secondary frequency) Maritime Mobiles Net
80 meters : 3.815 MHz Caribbean Net, (Alternates: 3.950 : North Florida / 3.940 South Florida)
To learn more about WX4NHC click here.