The National Weather Service Chicago (LOT) operates Amateur Radio Station WX9LOT for the purposes of passing SKYWARN related traffic into and out of the NWS office. The goal of the Amateur Radio Team at the NWS is to provide a reliable 100% Amateur Radio path to the NWS during severe weather events.
The LOT weather forecast area is very large and diverse ranging from densely populated urban areas to lightly populated rural areas. Due to the unique nature of the LOT WFO, it is not possible to have a single means of amateur radio to serve the entire area. Because of this the Ham Team monitors a combination of VHF and UHF repeater systems to gather reports from SKYWARN operations. The team evaluates and revises the systems it monitors on a regular basis to ensure the needs of the WFO are met despite the changing amateur radio landscape.
The NWS has designated several repeater systems as Primary Liaisons for LOT. This means that the NWS will always monitor these systems when severe weather is in their area. Liaison systems are chosen by a combination of factors. They must cover a large geographical area as accessed by a moderate base-type station (NOT mobile or portable coverage), have backup power or facilities, have regular SKYWARN net activity, and maintain regular contact with the Ham Team. Smaller non-primary net operations are encouraged to relay their significant reports to the NWS through these Primary Liaison systems.
Starting in 2016 the NWS Ham Team will have two levels of operations. The reason for these levels is that WX9LOT cannot monitor all of the Primary Liaisons at the same time. Having two levels of operations will maximize the efficiency of getting reports from ongoing SKYWARN nets. The NWS Ham Team will announce to the Primary Liaison net control operators when they come on frequency what level of operations they are in for that event.
Level 1 Operation: Level 1 is the normal level of operation for WX9LOT. During Level 1 the Ham Team operators will monitor the Primary Liaison in the area(s) of severe weather, and with a secondary operating position will scan and monitor non-primary systems active in that same area. This means that Primary Liaisons not in an active severe weather area will not be monitored.
Level 2 Operation: Level 2 will be activated when a large scale wide spread severe weather event is anticipated or happening. There are times in the LOT WFO area where multiple lines of severe weather can be occurring across the entire WFO area. During Level 2 operations there are 4 specific repeater systems the NWS will monitor. At that time all other Primary Liaisons and non-liaison systems are directed to relay their severe reports thru the 4 Primary Level 2 Liaisons. The Ham Team will not leave these systems until Level 1 operations are resumed.
Please reference the maps on the NWS Chicago website for locations and frequencies of systems for both Level 1 and Level 2 operations.
The WX9LOT Ham Team appreciates the cooperation and efforts all the amateur radio operators and systems that participate in SKYWARN operations and help us to provide real-time ground reports to the NWS.