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Frequently Asked Questions of the Hurricane Watch Net


Contents
Q.  When does the net begin operations?
A.  The Hurricane Watch Net activates for all hurricanes that are a threat to land in the Atlantic and as needed in the Eastern Pacific. Normally, the net will go into full activation whenever a storm is within 300 statute miles from land and moving towards that land. On occasion, we may activate the net for tropical storms or hurricanes before they reach the 300 mile zone if requested by the National Hurricane Center.

Q.  What information does the net collect for the National Hurricane Center?
A.  As a storm approaches land, and at landfall, the net collects observations of wind speed, direction, wind gusts, barometric pressure, flooding from storm surge and any other information that might assist the forecasters of the National Hurricane Center get a better picture of the storm.

Q. With all the new and modern equipment that the weather service has such as Doppler radar, are ground reports still important?
A.  Yes!!!  The National Weather Service has improved its data collection ability greatly with the equipment mentioned, but there is still no better equipment than human eye on the ground that can give an accurate report of conditions.

Q.  How do I determine the speed of the wind?
A.  The National Hurricane Center prefers measured data. Relatively inexpensive amateur weather stations are available from a number of sources. We will accept estimated condition reports if that is all that is available but the Hurricane Center seldom uses this data in their advisories.  As a guide, however, we have information available to help judge wind speed.  Please click here for more information.

Q.  I have listened to the net for years but never checked in. Should I check in to let you know that I am available to assist?
A.  Before checking into the net, listen long enough to determine the nature and immediacy of what is happening. If the hurricane is still hours from landfall, the net control will provide you a window of opportunity to check in.

DO NOT check into the net if the hurricane is within an hour of landfall and you are not in the affected area or can not relay or supply information of immediate value to the net or Hurricane Center.

Q.  How can I become a net control station?
A.  Please go to our membership information page by clicking here.

Q.  Does the Hurricane Watch Net activate for Pacific Basin Storms?
A:  No.  The Hurricane Watch Net does not, typically, activate for Pacific Basin Hurricanes.  There are two reasons for this:  First, because we have not, in the past, had any reporting stations from the affected areas check in with us.   Without reporting stations, the Hurricane Watch Net's ability to collect ground truth weather observations is nil.  Secondly, the National Hurricane Center has never requested the Hurricane Watch Net to activate for Pacific Basin storms.

Q. Do you only accept stations in hurricane areas for membership?
A.  No. We have an urgent need for stations in the Mid-West and West Coast areas of the United States that can control the net as propagation shifts west.  We also have need for bilingual net control operators who are fluent in Spanish, Creole, as well as English.

Q. My class of amateur license will not allow me to work on the 20 meter band. Is there anyway that I can help?
A.  Sure. The National Hurricane Center monitors the APRS packet reporting system. Submit your information via APRS or better yet connect a weather station to your packet set up for automatic reporting.

Q.  I'm not a ham radio operator.  Is there any way I can participate?
A.  Yes. The National Hurricane Center collects observations from people in coastal areas who have home weather stations. Send an e-mail to wx4nhc@wx4nhc.org and request information about this program or use their on-line submission form by clicking here.

I'm vacationing in the Caribbean / Bahamas / Central America / Miami or elsewhere in the tropics during hurricane season. What's my chance of getting hit by a hurricane?
A.  The Tropical Cyclone Frequently Asked Questions (which by the way is an excellent reference and starting place for learning about tropical cyclones) has the answer to this: http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/G15.html. Additionally, the NHC climatology page could provide more insight.

How do I understand the advisories? Where can I get definitions of the terminology used in them?
Start with these help pages: We also offer two Glossaries and a list of commonly used acronyms and abbreviations: The latter is an extensive list of weather-related terms.

What is UTC or GMT Time?
A.  See here for more details:
I heard that there is a tropical cyclone somewhere in the Atlantic / Caribbean / Gulf of Mexico / Eastern Pacific. How can I find out if I am at risk?
A.  First, go back to the HWN homepage (you can click on the Hurricane Watch Net logo at the top left corner of the page as a quick short cut). If there is an active storm, click on the link for that storm and you will be taken to the appropriate Atlantic or Eastern Pacific Products page. Look at the graphics for each storm that's currently active to see if it looks like it may be headed your way. Read the latest advisories for more information.

Also note that if you live in the United States and a tropical cyclone is threatening your part of the coastline then the local NWS Weather Forecast Offices will issue Hurricane Local Statements if their areas are threatened. The Atlantic Products contains a link to a map of the coastal areas of the United States and Puerto Rico. This map contains links to the area you choose.  If that local NWS is issueing Hurricane Local Statements then that information will appear. From these links you can find detailed local information tailored specifically for your area.

More Questions about Hurricanes?

Visit AOML's Hurricane Research Division FAQ for more detailed cyclone-related questions.