National Hurricane Center uses IRLP / Raleigh
Just seven days after Isidore made landfall as a strong tropical storm, Category-4 Hurricane Lili threatened the Louisiana coast on October 3, 2002. Lili was the first hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since 1999. Forecasters were concerned that Lili could be a potential disaster for much of coastal Louisiana with 145 mile-per-hour winds and up to a 20-foot storm surge predicted.
Robert Broderick, WE4B and John McHugh, KU4GY in Miami had corresponded earlier in the week with Danny Musten KD4RAA, in Raleigh to use the IRLP East Coast Reflector 921 to coordinate an IRLP-Skywarn / Hurricane net. Using the Reflector would allow all of the participating repeaters and nodes in the affected area to be linked and be heard simultaneously. "Emergency response was one of the primary reasons that we established the East Coast Reflector," said Danny. "We were excited that this new technology that links repeaters nation-wide and beyond could be activated for this purpose".
"With this storm, we established another milestone in W4EHW's history," said, John McHugh, KU4GY, coordinator for Amateur Radio at the NHC. "Using the Palmetto Radio Club repeater that was connected to similar repeaters in Louisiana via IRLP (Internet Radio Linking Project), we were able to collect weather reports from stations in the affected area that do not have HF radios."
StormStudy weather specialist John Van Pelt, K4JVP, at the invitation of the Hurricane Intercept Research Team, traveled from Raleigh to Morgan City, LA, with hopes of reporting back first-hand via the IRLP. The Lafayette repeater was out of range to his coastal location, but John was able to give measured reports via patch through Raleigh IRLP node 427, which was connected to Reflector 921. WE4B stated that the "patch reports from John, K4JVP - the hurricane specialist in Morgan City, were very well received by the NHC in Miami".
During the Net, an occasional stray
node from Australia or the UK would link to the Reflector
to start a QSO and would be immediately escorted
off. That duty fell to the hands of Jim Price, WW4M
and Jack Thorpe, WA0ERX in Raleigh, Nate Duehr, WY0X in
Denver, CO and Paul Cassel VE3SY in Petersburg Ontario
Canada, who monitored the Raleigh Reflector for 24 hours
to block any node that might interfere with Net
communications. Jim Price, WW4M commented that,
"Because IRLP is linked worldwide, stations from
unaffected areas as far away as Ontario and Colorado were
able to respond to this emergency as net control
operators, which freed up stations in Louisiana for other
matters. If the Reflector is ever needed 24 hours
per day for several days to respond to bigger disasters,
we could even bring in fresh control ops from Australia
to work the late shift when it's the middle of the night
in the U.S."
Net traffic on Reflector 921 was also monitored locally in Raleigh on the K4JDR-KD4RAA group repeaters as well as in Wilmington. Joe Landers KE4EUE reported from the Wakefield Virginia node/repeater that officials from the National Weather Service and Virginia State Radio Officers were monitoring and on standby to offer health and welfare if needed. Other IRLP nodes from adjacent states were listening in on the Hurricane Net, many of which were ready to offer any needed assistance.
As a bonus, folks could listen via the internet to keep up with the traffic on Reflector 921. There were streaming audio feeds made available to the internet from the W4ATC Student Amateur Radio Society at NC State University and Live365 from VE3SY. With Lili receiving national attention, many were anxious about this storm. Fortunately it was downgraded to a Cat-2, but K4JVP reported that "over a half million people in Louisiana were without power. Tree damage was massive. It would have been devastating if the storm had come in as expected on Wednesday night."
Robert Hobbs, N5ULA, EC for East Baton Rouge Parish, offered his thanks for all the help during the Net. "It showed a lot of the guys here locally that it (IRLP) can and will work. Maybe now we can expand our node coverage in more of the coastal cities that will be a big help next time. I really want to get nodes up in Slidell and Lake Charles so that the Amateur Stations at the NWS offices in both cities can have access. We have our work cut out for us, but with a winning track record now I feel it will be a little easier."
In North Carolina, the KD4RAA-K4JDR repeater group plans to soon add the K4OBX Outer Banks and Morehead nodes to the existing N4JDW nodes in Wilmington to aid in storm reporting and emergency preparedness along the coast. Other states are also considering IRLP nodes for reporting to the National Weather Service and Emergency Management. Information or requests to use the East Coast Reflector 921 can be emailed to:
IRLP is the creation of Canadian Ham, David Cameron VE7LTD.
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