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WX4RNK - Amateur Radio Home of Blacksburg SKYWARNanemometer



March 2, 2006
SKYWARN Repeater Coordinator & Assistants
Glen Sage, W4GHS

The National Weather Service, Weather Forecast Office in Blacksburg has been working to enhance its SKYWARN System through amateur radio. One of the changes has been to organize a SKYWARN Advisory Committee, and another to move to a regional repeater system to collect weather data for the forecast office.

A part of building the repeater system has been to gain permission from repeater owners to use their repeaters as SKYWARN repeaters for special events, weather standby mode, and directed net activation. We have written permission for twelve key repeaters that are broad coverage machines and representative of some of the best repeaters in this area of the country. Please visit our NWS Blacksburg Area Repeaters page to check them out.

In order for this system to work, we need hams to serve as repeater coordinators & assistant coordinators for SKYWARN. Each repeater will have a coordinator and several assistants and their names, calls, phone numbers and e-mail addresses will be listed with the NWS in Blacksburg. We will also have a second group of coordinators called, “Regional Coordinators”. This second group of hams must be able to access at least seven of the nine repeaters in our system, from their home station. In the event of severe weather a meteorologist may call one of these local coordinators and ask him or her to activate SKYWARN and secure critical information from a particular area that is covered by his or her repeater. If no coordinator from that repeater’s local group can activate the repeater, the meteorologist may then contact one of the “Regional Coordinators” that have the ability to access most or all of the twelve repeaters from their home station, and ask them to activate the system.

The local or Regional coordinators may also place one or more repeaters in “standby mode” in the event of “watches” or “warnings”. In this mode the repeater remains available for use by the general ham community but the hams are ask to keep their transmissions brief and pause in the event that critical SKYWARN information may need to be reported. If the weather conditions become severe, then a directed net may be activated to allow for the steady flow of weather data.

These SKYWARN activations serve not only as a source of information to the NWS but to hams that might be traveling during adverse weather. It can also be a valuable resource to Emergency Mangers looking for information related to weather in their area of responsibility.

To follow are items that are reportable and very vital to the weather forecast office:

  • Tornadoes and Funnel Clouds

  • Wall Clouds Hail of any size

  • Rain in excess of 1 inch per hour Flooding

  • Snow in excess of 3" Any ice accumulation

  • Winds in excess of 50 MPH (damaging winds that less than 50 miles per hour that are downing trees or causing structure damage to buildings or homes)

Critical data should be phoned into the NWS office at 1-866-215-4324 or 1-540-552-0084. If the SKYWARN Amateur Radio Station is active at the Blacksburg office the information can be passed by voice. For data less critical, there are two Internet forms that can be used to pass information to the NWS office. The Spotter Report Form lends itself to being used by an individual reporting but has more fields for information. The second, SKYWARN Net Report Form is designed for use by a SKYWARN net and is set up for 10 reports. When you click on the “Submit” button at the bottom of the form it goes directly to the NWS office at Blacksburg to the following e-mail address; rnk.skywarn@noaa.gov and this e-mail is checked frequently during times of adverse weather. These forms can also be used for “After Storm” totals that can be helpful to the NWS.

Note: When you send a form, call 1-866-215-4324 and let them know that a form has been sent.

By using these forms, you help to free the telephone up at the Blacksburg office and the information comes to them as text so they don’t have to record the information by hand over the phone. They also get up to 5 reports from a single form submission.

On the form page there is an icon for automated rain gages in many of our coverage areas. By clicking on this icon, you can also pick up information on local rainfall.

In serving as a Repeater Coordinator or assistant, you do not have to be the net control or do the reporting of information. You can designate others to care for that task. You job is just to insure that it gets done.

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