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Who We Are

1965, a time in which hurricane forecasting was still in its infancy, Hurricane Betsy came roaring across the Bahamas, the Florida Keys, and then hammered southeast Louisiana on Labor Day Weekend. Betsy was the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States resulting in over 1 billion dollars in damages. The storm became known as “Billion Dollar Betsy”.

Jerry Murphy, K8YUW while stationed at the U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Center in Davisville, Rhode Island, handled countless phone patches and messages to and from military deployed personnel as a member of the Intercontinental Amateur Radio Net (IARN) on 14.320 MHz. As Hurricane Betsy was moving through the Bahamas, Jerry, along with Marcy Rice, KZ5MM located the Canal Zone (Panama), helped relay weather information between those in south Florida and the Bahamas. There was so much interest in what the storm was doing that it created a major disruption in IARN activities. Jerry suggested to the Net Manager to move those interested in the storm up 5 kHz to get them off the net. The Net Manager agreed. Marcy followed Jerry, and together they established the first “Hurricane Watch Net” on 14.325 MHz.

In a letter dated March 1999 from Jerry Murphy, he recalls the following: “We received the latest advisories and bulletins from various Florida hams, one of them worked for the city of Miami. Sometime later, maybe a year or two later, Ellie Horner, K4RHL subscribed to a teletype network and had an RTTY system installed in her home. That kept us better informed in future storms”.

Fifteen years later, in 1980, the National Hurricane Center saw its first amateur radio station installation using the callsign “W4EHW”. When W4EHW (now operating as WX4NHC as of 2004) opened for business at the NHC, it became a lot easier for the HWN member stations to provide real-time information to those in the areas affected by tropical storms. Ground truth observations were gathered and relayed to the NHC’s forecasters in a much timelier manner.

The Hurricane Watch Net is a group of licensed Amateur Radio Operators, trained and organized to provide essential communications support to the National Hurricane Center during times of Hurricane emergencies. We are not housed in a single location - as some of our followers believe - but strategically disbursed across North America, throughout the Caribbean Sea, Central America, and the northern coast of South America, so that we can provide a continuous path of communications from storm-affected areas to the forecasters in the National Hurricane Center in Miami, and when needed, the forecasters in the Canadian Hurricane Center in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

The primary mission of the Hurricane Watch Net is to disseminate tropical cyclone advisory information to island communities in the Caribbean, Central America, along the Atlantic seaboard of the U.S., and throughout the Gulf of Mexico coastal areas. We also collect observed or measured weather data from amateur radio operators in the storm-affected area as well as any post-storm damage and convey that information to the Hurricane Forecasters in the National Hurricane Center via the amateur radio station in the center (WX4NHC). In addition, we provide the same service for the Canadian Hurricane Centre whenever a hurricane threatens their country.

The Hurricane Watch Net generally activates whenever a system has achieved hurricane status and is within 300 statute miles of populated landmass (this can vary, however, due to the forward speed and intensity of the storm) or at the request of the forecasters at the National Hurricane Center or the Canadian Hurricane Centre.

Our area of coverage includes the Caribbean, Central America, Eastern Mexico, Eastern Canada, as well as all US Atlantic and Gulf Coast States. When activated, you will find us on 14.325 MHz (USB) by day and 7.268 MHz (LSB) by night. When required, we will use both frequencies simultaneously. Why do we state these frequencies without a plus or minus amount? Many non-hams listen in via shortwave radio and know this is where to find us when we are activated. Before any net activation, if either frequency is in use, we always ask permission to use them. Additionally, it is our practice of being on the air ahead of the amateur radio station at the National Hurricane Center - WX4NHC- for the explicit purpose to establish our net operating frequency, read the latest advisory information, and line-up reporting stations. It helps us tremendously to know the operator's location, name, and weather data measuring capabilities in advance of the storm’s arrival.

Our Purpose

  • Disseminate the latest advisories issued by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, FL. We do so for marine interests, Caribbean Island and Central American nations, and other interests where public media is not readily available.

  • Obtain real-time ground-level weather conditions and initial damage assessments from amateur radio operators in the affected area and relay that information to the National Hurricane Center by way of WX4NHC, and when required, the Canadian Hurricane Centre.

  • Function as a backup communication link for the National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service Forecast Offices, the Canadian Hurricane Centre, Emergency Operation Centers, Emergency Management Agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, and other vital interests, which can involve military relief operations, involved in the protection of life and property before, during, and after a hurricane event.