Ham Radio Program
Send your comments, questions or any additional information you would like posted on this page to Fred McMullen (WCM)
What is SKYWARN?
SKYWARN frequencies that our counties use during severe weather events.
More on amateur radio SKYWARN NET for Allegheny County...
An effective SKYWARN net usually follows some form of guide or outline. This is especially helpful in making it through the rougher times that occasionally occur. Usually it is in these tough times that your communications to the NWS have the utmost value.
Remember, SKYWARN is NOT a club. By putting aside any differences that do not support the goals of SKYWARN, you'll find your SKYWARN net to be at its most effective level.
A great amount of the work is done by the amateur radio community in fulfilling the goals of SKYWARN. The NWS appreciates your assistance. The Pittsburgh National Weather Service office has over 2000 trained spotters in our 36 county warning area that covers four states. We rely on you in assisting in goals number 2, 3 and 4.
THE GOALS OF AMATEUR RADIO SKYWARN
1) TO HAVE A NETWORK OF SPOTTERS IN PLACE TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER
2) TO ACTIVATE THIS NETWORK AS NEEDED
3) TO COORDINATE REPORTS FROM THE SPOTTERS IN A PROFESSIONAL MANNER
4) TO RELAY THESE REPORTS TO THE NWS IN A TIMELY MANNER
ACTIVATING THE NETWORK
Methods of initial awareness of severe weather and the need to activate the network:
Receive a call from the NWS requesting reports
NOAA Weather Radio, local TV or radio, if your county is under a Severe Thunderstorm/Flash Flood/or Tornado Warning, there is no doubt that the NWS needs your reports.
Tune to your local repeater, where SKYWARN nets are held. Others may have begun to activate the net.
If you are hearing reports on the repeater that meet the criteria set by the NWS.
Request by EMA or other county official
Please note: The need for activation occurs when only one of these criteria are met.
CRITERIA FOR REPORTING
WIND GUSTS (ESTIMATED OR MEASURED 45 MPH OR MORE)
WIND DAMAGE (TO LIMBS, TREES, ROOFS, ETC.)
HAIL (WITH DIAMETER OF LARGEST STONES)
FLOODING (BASEMENTS, EXTENSIVE STREET FLOODING, SMALL STREAMS)
HEAVY RAIN (0.75 INCHES OR GREATER IN 1 HOUR OR LESS OR 3 INCHES IN ANY TIME FRAME LESS THAN 24 HOURS)
CONTINUOUS LIGHTNING FIRE/DAMAGE CAUSED BY LIGHTNING
ANY DEATH OR INJURY DUE TO ANY OF THE ABOVE
Remember to always give the three most important parts of a report
TIME - TIME OF OCCURRENCE
EVENT - HAIL, TORNADO, FUNNEL CLOUD, ETC.
LOCATION - COUNTY AND DIRECTION/DISTANCE FROM NEAREST TOWN
Often severe storms strike quickly and are isolated in our area. There will be times when there is no radio operator at the NWS to make direct contacts to you. This is when your main link to the NWS is via the 800 Severe Weather Hotline. One person, often the Net Control Station, should be delegated to using the HOTLINE to relay severe weather reports. This will avoid duplication and keep the 800 lines free. Whenever calling the Severe Weather Hotline identify yourself as a SKYWARN member in Allegheny County.
The radio operator at the NWS can provide information on the current watch/warning status for your county and a brief radar synopsis. It is up to the net control operator to determine what level of net activation is required given certain circumstances. The degree needed varies, but could be effectively arranged in a four-tier system.
Net activation to STANDBY
When used: When a Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been issued, but no weather activity is occurring in the area. Note the expiration time of the watch.
A net control station will then be established and take and log check-ins. Now is the best time to establish where potential observers are located for the upcoming event, not when the severe weather is hitting. The net control station will also relay watch information frequently. Normal use of the repeater will continue, however, please leave a pause between transmissions should net control need to break in to take the net to a higher level.
As the storms approach your area, the net may need to be fully activated. There are three levels of full activation.
Net Activation to CONDITION GREEN
When used: Used during ALL Tornado Watches and during Severe Thunderstorm Watches when active weather is occurring.
Nets for Flood/Flash Flood Watches are normally not required. There may be exceptions when the NWS would request additional spotter reports, ex. remnants of a tropical storm moving through the area.
The first priority, during condition green, would be taking and relaying weather reports to the NWS. Second would be check-ins. The Net Control Station takes control of frequency and gives frequent updates on net status and weather watches. Prepare for further upgrade as storms approach or if severe weather reports begin coming in.
Net Activation to CONDITION YELLOW
When used: If a SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING and/or FLASH FLOOD WARNING has been issued for your county.
Priority must be given to collecting and relaying weather reports, No check-ins or checkouts at this time. Net Contol will announce warning information frequently. Only reports meeting the criteria mentioned earlier should be requested. "It's not raining here" reports are not needed, unless requested.
Net Activation to CONDITION RED
When used: If a TORNADO WARNING has been issued for your county.
Net Control Station takes total control of frequency. Net Control requests tornado, funnel cloud and wall cloud reports. If there are no tornadic reports, Net Contol requests reports meeting the above criteria. Stations without one of the above reports should maintain radio silence. Net control will relay Tornado Warning information frequently.
Condition RED events are rare. However, real emergency organization in these instances is what will make the NWS, trained spotters and all licensed amateurs involved with ARES fulfill their missions and shine.
Often, if one waits until a warning is issued, it is too late to organize spotters, collect reports and relay them to the NWS in a timely manner. Spotters are also requested to check-in/check-out in Stand-by and Condition Green. This will help net control know where available spotters are before the storm moves through the county.
More details concerning the changes will be available during the Allegheny County Skywarn Nets on the first and third Wednesdays at 8:30 PM on the 147.09 repeater through the winter and spring. I will keep you up-to-date with the pluses and minuses of the new operations. Granted, what works well for one county might not for another. Many counties conduct two-meter radio Skywarn nets. If a County EC/AEC would like to share information in future newsletters on how they conduct their nets, let me know.
If you have any questions about the NWS SKYWARN program, don't hesitate to contact us.
Administrative: (412) 262-1591
Weather recording: (412) 262-2170
River information: (412) 262-5290
National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office Pittsburgh
192 Shafer Road
Moon Township, PA 15108
Fred McMullen, Warning Coordination Meteorologist/SKYWARN Director