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WX4TOR Amateur Radio Station

Questions regarding WX4TOR should be directed, richard.rude@noaa.gov, KE4EXL

                   

WX4TOR is the amateur radio station at the National Weather Service in Ruskin (Ruskin WFO). WX4TOR is utilized during major weather events or disasters such as tropical cyclones or other natural disasters which cover most of the Ruskin WFO county warning area (CWA). When WX4TOR is activated, a local amateur radio operator / SKYWARN™ volunteer will come to the Ruskin WFO and communicate with the net control and other SKYWARN™ spotters who are on the net frequency. The stations consists of the following equipment:
  • Icom IC-718 HF/VHF- used for long distance and local communication. For example, if phone lines are down, the Ruskin WFO can communicate with the National Hurricane Center during tropical cyclones using this radio.
  • Icom IC-207 VHF/UHF - used for voice communications during SKYWARN™ nets.
  • Yeasu FT-8000M VHF - used for local packet / SEDAN.
  • PC - APRS via UIView, Echolink, internet access, IEMchat.
Finally, each Tuesday at 9 pm, WX4TOR is utilized for a practice net, which is conducted on the NI4CE repeater system. This net serves as practice for real SKYWARN™ net activations, but mainly as a method of reaching out and providing useful information to the local SKYWARN™ volunteers.

                   

Activation Policy and Operating Plan
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The NWS Ruskin Weather Forecast Office (WFO) utilizes two methods of operating SKYWARN™ amateur radio nets. They consist of local county-based SKYWARN™ nets, and a regional SKYWARN™ net. Both support the Ruskin WFO in local early weather warning and emergency communications functions, and assist with SKYWARN™ severe weather spotter operations. This guide is intended to serve as a tool to provide direction as to the role of the various amateur radio volunteer SKYWARN™ groups that serve the Ruskin WFO.

Responsibilities of County and Regional Nets
 

Local County Nets

Many of the 15 counties in the Ruskin County Warning Area (CWA) operate their own SKYWARN™ amateur radio nets during severe weather events. Some of the counties operate SKYWARN™ net activations under the support or direction of county emergency management, ARRL ARES, or ACS affiliation, while others are volunteer groups or clubs with no particular affiliations.

County Nets will be responsible for SKYWARN™ activation and will be recognized as the official SKYWARN™ nets for routine or day-to-day severe weather events. This includes warm season sea breeze thunderstorm activity, as well as convective watches (tornado and severe thunderstorm watches). County nets will activate upon request from the Ruskin WFO or will self-activate as needed (typically, county nets self activate most of the time). County nets will relay severe weather reports and communicate directly with the Ruskin WFO via phone, IEM chat, or eSpotter. Since the aforementioned weather events typically affect only small groups of counties at any one time, net activation and duration will be dependent on the timing of the weather event itself, and will be determined by the net control. When it appears that the severe weather is about to enter a given county, that county's net control will establish and activate a directed net. When the severe weather threat has exited an activated county, the net control may close the net at their discretion.

Local SKYWARN Frequencies
(pl tone in parenthesis)

 

 County
 Name
 Hosted
 By
Primary
Frequency
Secondary
Frequency
Weekly
Practice Net
 Charlotte  Charlotte County RACES
 West County is secondary
146.745-
(136.5)
146.865-
(none)
9:30 AM & 10:00 AM
last Thursday
 Citrus  Citrus County ARES 146.955-
(103.5)
146.775
(146.2)
7:30 PM
Wednesday
 DeSoto  DeSoto County Amateur Radio
 Club
147.075+
(100.0)
N/A 8:00 PM
Tuesday
 Hardee  Hardee ARES 146.625-
(127.3)
N/A none
 Hernando  Spring Hill
 Amateur Radio Club
146.805-
(123.0)
146.715-
(none)
7:15 PM
Tuesday
 Highlands  Highlands County
 Amateur Radio Club
147.045+
(100.0)
N/A 8:00 PM
Wednesday
 Hillsborough  Tampa Amateur Radio Club 147.105+
(146.2)
146.940-
(146.2)
8:00 PM
Tuesday
 Lee  Fort Myers 
 Amateur Radio Club
146.880-
(136.5) 
444.975 N/A
 Levy  Levy County (part of DARKlub)  147.390+
(123.0)
N/A 7:00 PM
Thursday
 Manatee  Manatee County ARES 443.875
(none)
N/A 7:00 PM
Thursday
 Pasco  Gulf Coast Amateur Radio Club
 Echolink node 46670
146.670-
(146.2)
442.650+
(146.2)
8:00 PM
Wednesday
 Pinellas  Pinellas County ACS 145.170-
(156.7)
442.400+
(156.7)
7:30 PM
Tuesday
 Polk  Polk County ARES 146.985-
(127.3)
Comm Plan 9:00 PM
Tuesday
 Sarasota  Sarasota
 Emergency Radio Club
146.730-
(100.0)
147.390+
(100.0)
 7:30 PM
Wednesday
 Sumter  Sumter ARES 147.030
(123.0)
146.925
(123.0)
8:30 PM
Sunday
 

Regional Nets

The West Central Florida Group, Inc (WCFG) NI4CE repeater system (http://ni4ce.org) will be utilized for NWS Ruskin amateur radio SKYWARN™ nets during large scale natural disasters or large scale weather events such as tropical cyclones, during which the majority of Ruskin WFO's CWA is affected at the same time. During regional net activations, WX4TOR will be the assigned Net Control Station and will be operated by licensed, well-trained and dedicated Amateur Radio operators fluent in SKYWARN™ and emergency Net procedures. During such activations, all County-level Amateur Radio SKYWARN™ Nets will utilize the Regional Net to funnel their SKYWARN™ traffic to the National Weather Service whenever possible.

The repeaters of the NI4CE system include (all repeaters have a pl tone of 100):

 
 Area

ZONE

FREQUENCY

CTCSS

LOCATION

PRIMARY COVERAGE

NORTH

443.450

100.0

Holiday

Tampa Bay North, Nature Coast

CENTRAL

442.550

100.0

Riverview

Tampa Bay

EAST

442.825

100.0

Bartow

Polk Co.

SOUTH

442.950

100.0

Verna

Hardee, DeSoto, Charlotte, Manatee, Sarasota

145.430

100.0

HIGHLANDS

443.950

100.0

Lake Placid

Highlands, East Charlotte East DeSoto

 

Summary
The table below summarizes the roles of both the county and regional SKYWARN™ nets:

  • Responsible for conducting Skywarn™ net operations for all day-to-day events, such as sea breeze thunderstorm events and convective watches (SVR/TOR Watches).
  • Reports sent directly to NWS via phone, IEM chat, or eSpotter to expedite reporting process.
  • Can optionally activate for large scale or regional events (those handled on NI4CE), however NI4CE will be recognized as the official Skywarn™ activation frequency for such events.
  • WX4TOR will not be staffed.
  • NI4CE will be used for conducting Skywarn™ net operations for tropical cyclones and large scale natural disasters where the majority of the County Warning Area for the Weather Forecast Office (WFO), Tampa bay Area is affected at the same time.
  • During regional activation:
  • Net control is done by WX4TOR using licensed, well-trained and dedicated Amateur Radio operators fluent in SKYWARN™ and emergency Net procedures.
  • The weekly NWS outreach net is conducted on NI4CE every Tuesday at 9 Pm.
  • The weekly NWS SKYWARN™ net is conducted on NI4CE every Tuesday at 9 PM. Normal Net procedures may be pre-empted during severe weather events to disseminate severe weather event information and take spotter reports.
  • Informal "severe weather nets" conducted on NI4CE during limited coverage events may be conducted by NWS approved SKYWARN™ Net Control operators.

                   

Modes of Activation
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Standby Mode
  • This mode means the repeater is free for normal use; however, a Net Control Operator will be standing by to receive criteria severe weather reports.
  • NCO will make frequent announcements regarding the SKYWARN™ net being in standby mode (usually once every 15 minutes)
  • This is not a directed net.
  • Typically this mode will be utilized before warnings are issued.
Active Mode
  • This mode means the repeater is now under a directed net, and all traffic should be directed through the Net Control Operator.
  • Severe weather is occurring and/or warnings have been issued, and Net Control is receiving multiple severe weather reports.

                                         

The Role of the Regional SKYWARN Nets on the NI4CE System
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The West Central Florida Group, Inc (WCFG) NI4CE repeater system (http://www.ni4ce.org) will be utilized for NWS Ruskin amateur radio SKYWARN™ nets during large scale natural disasters or large scale weather events such as tropical cyclones, during which the majority of Ruskin WFO's CWA is affected at the same time. During regional net activations, WX4TOR will be the assigned Net Control Station and will be operated by licensed, well-trained and dedicated Amateur Radio operators fluent in SKYWARN™ and emergency Net procedures. During such activations, all County-level Amateur Radio SKYWARN™ Nets will utilize the Regional Net to funnel their SKYWARN™ traffic to the National Weather Service whenever possible.

                   

Who Should I Report to? 
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Question: "OK, I'm still confused! Who should I call my severe weather reports in to?"
First off, SKYWARN™ volunteers need to keep in mind that the NWS needs to get your report and information as soon as possible. As such, the NWS would like for you to use the most direct and fastest means possible to communicate your report to the NWS. Typically, the fastest way to reach the NWS is by old fashion telephone, via a call in to the 1-800 spotter reporting hot line. Please be sure to check and become familiar with the NWS Ruskin 1-800 spotter reporting hot line. It is on the back of your spotter ID card. Also, please keep in mind that this unlisted number is to be used ONLY for reporting severe weather and official SKYWARN™ matters.

In the absence of routine communication methods such as land line telephone, the amatuer radio service provides an invaluable service to the NWS and the local community by way of amateur radio SKYWARN™ nets. As such, SKYWARN™ nets are usually conducted during severe weather events.

If the severe weather is localized, such as the case with warm season sea breeze thunderstorms, or during the cool season with thunderstorm squall lines or convective watches (severe thunderstorm or tonado watches), please call in your report to your local county-based SKYWARN™ net.

If the event is large in scale, such as tropical cyclones or other large natural disasters, you are still encouraged to call your report in to your local county-based SKYWARN™ net. However, keep in mind that during these types of events, a regional SKYWARN™ net on the NI4CE system will be in place, and you can also report your information on that net as well.

Please see the Net Frequencies page for a listing of all county and regional net frequencies.

                   

Backup to County and Regional SKYWARN™ Nets
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Backup to Local Nets:
 
  • If any of our local county nets go down during limited coverage events, SKYWARN™ volunteers in that county are expected to pass along reports to NWS via the 1-800 spotter hotline, or a neighboring activated county net .
  • Spotters in counties that do not have a local SKYWARN™ net should report weather events to NWS via the 1-800 spotter hotline.
  • All regional reports sent through The Spotter Network (http://SpotterNetwork.org) are automatically sent to NWS Ruskin.
Backup to Regional Nets:
 
  • The W4FLG (146.640 Mhz) repeater will serve as backup to the NI4CE repeater system for wide-area or regional net coverage in the event that the NI4CE system goes down.

                   

SKYWARN Net Preambles
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Local net preambles are developed and maintained by the various county-based SKYWARN™ groups. Preambles for regional nets are attached. These are subject to frequent changes and are updated often, so be sure to check back for new releases.

The following are preambles for SKYWARN™ nets conducted outside of the NWS Ruskin office (remote nets): The following are preambles for SKYWARN™ nets conducted at the NWS Ruskin office at WX4TOR:

                   

Weekly SKYWARN Practice and Outreach Nets
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The NWS Ruskin SKYWARN™ weekly practice and outreach net meets every Tuesday evening at 9 pm on the NI4CE repeater system (see net frequencies for regional net). This net is operated directly from the National Weather Service forecast office in Ruskin each week. The purpose of this net is to provide limited SKYWARN™ training, make announcements of interest to SKYWARN™ personnel, provide local weather information (especially if severe weather is expected in the next few days), and to provide net participants the opportunity to interact with the staff of their local NWS weather forecast office.

The question and answer portion of the net has become quite popular over the past few years. During this portion of the net each week, a National Weather Service forecaster will stand by with net control to answer any questions net participants may have about the National Weather Service, or about up coming west central Florida weather. As such, this weekly net serves as your direct connection to your local National Weather Service office. When joining us for the net, feel free to bring along your questions for the NWS forecasters!

Finally, net control operators are needed for this net! If you'd like to volunteer to run this net, please contact KE4EXL, richard.rude@noaa.gov.  Net control experience is not necessary, training is provided locally.

                   

WX4TOR Net Control Schedule for Weekly Nets
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The table below is the net control schedule for our weekly practice net.
 Day of Each Month  Operator  Call Sign  Confirmation
 1st Tuesday  Christine Duez  KK4KJN  Confirmed
 2nd Tuesday  Gary Jones  AJ4TC  Confirmed
 3rd Tuesday  Kevin Ashcraft  KM4FPA  Confirmed
 4th Tuesday  Ralph McCullough  WA3YFO  Confirmed
 5th Tuesday (if needed)  Andrew Stevens  WX4AMS  Confirmed
 Alternate 1  Norman Xanders  KN4NEX  Confirmed
 Alternate 2  Rob Barger  K8RSB  Confirmed
 Alternate 3  Richard Rude  KE4EXL  Confirmed

                   

SKYWARN Net Control Volunteers
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The National Weather Service in Ruskin would like to thank our group of volunteer net control operators who have dedicated a considerable amount of time and effort running our weekly practice and outreach nets, and conducting nets during severe weather events.

The National Weather Service in Ruskin is always looking for additional volunteers. Volunteers are needed for:
 
  • Tuesday night net control - typically operators arrive at the NWS around 8:30 pm. The net begins at 9 PM EDT each week, and typically lasts about one hour. Each operator is asked to cover a net about once every two months.
  • NWS liaison station during tropical cyclone events - volunteers will operate NWS Ruskin station WX4TOR and serve as NWS liaison to the SKYWARN™ net. This involves:
    • Come to the NWS during tropical cyclones (probably the best place to be anyway during this type of event!), and operate WX4TOR. Volunteers typically spend 6-8 hours or more, so come prepared to spend some time!
    • Communicate with the remote net control. This means you will be taking severe weather reports from net control and passing them on to the NWS staff. Also, you will be passing critical weather information back to net control and others on the net
    • Interact with NWS staff - this is an exciting and great learning experience!