SOUTH CENTRAL WISCONSIN SKYWARN NET PREPARES FOR 1999 SEVERE WEATHER SEASON

by Tom Weeden, WJ9H
SKYWARN Net Manager
(6802 Putnam Road
Madison, WI 53711)

Wisconsin's severe weather season usually begins in April, but 1999 had an unexpected early severe weather episode on February 11th, when severe thunderstorms rolled through southern Wisconsin. Several areas received hail damage in these storms. South-Central Wisconsin SKYWARN spotters should be ready to respond year-around!

In general, the main SCWI SKYWARN Net operates on the Baraboo 146.28/.88 repeater which offers wide-area coverage thanks to its location on the Baraboo Bluffs. Tower space for this repeater is provided to the Central Wisconsin Repeater Association at no charge by WOLX radio because of the public service the net offers. The repeater is carrier-access, but several remote receive sites have been set up around southern Wisconsin that can be accessed by encoding a PL tone of 123.0 Hz. This is advantageous to those reporting in on handi-talkies or stations using low-elevation "storm" antennas. The 146.88 net is one of several SKYWARN nets which serve the National Weather Service office at Sullivan, WI.

All hams, especially those who have attended tornado spotter training classes offered in their areas by the National Weather Service, are invited to monitor the net and report severe weather to the Net Control Station (NCS). Reportable weather includes: tornadoes, funnel clouds, rotating wall clouds, hail of 1/4 inch diameter or greater, flash flooding, heavy rainfall amounts, wind speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour, and damage reports. Reports must be BRIEF to maintain net efficiency. When reporting severe weather, stations should initially identify themselves with their callsign and a one-word description of their traffic, such as "KA9XYZ, hail." The NCS will acknowledge the station, and the traffic can be passed. NWS requests that reports include a time of observation and your location relative to well-known highways.

The counties in our coverage area are Marquette, Green Lake, Sauk, Columbia, Iowa, Dane, Lafayette, Green and Rock. It is important to note that spotters in the northern counties of Adams, Juneau and Richland should check in to the LaCrosse net on the 145.39 repeater in Tomah. The Madison-area net will take reports from the northern counties and attempt to pass the traffic to LaCrosse if necessary, but the extra relay will slow down the information flow.

Some things to remember when you participate in a SKYWARN Net:

* Don't overestimate wind speeds! In the exhilaration of the moment, a 35 MPH wind moving trees can seem like 60. Branches begin breaking off trees at about 58 MPH, and that is considered severe.

* The SKYWARN Net will not accept "hearsay" traffic from stations monitoring law enforcement frequencies. These agencies have their own communications channels to the National Weather Service and are able to deliver their own observations. The Net DOES encourage relays of amateur traffic originating from stations who cannot access the repeater.

* When the net is busy, don't slow things down by passing non-severe traffic. "The sky is dark here" is not helpful. "I see a funnel cloud" is definitely appropriate.

* Remember that the operators and meteorologists monitoring at Sullivan may not be familiar with local landmarks. An observation of a funnel "near East Towne Mall" may not mean much to Sullivan, but "4 miles west of Sun Prairie" is more descriptive.

* NWS is interested in damage reports and heavy rainfall totals from those with rain gauges. The Doppler radar at Sullivan can estimate rainfalls, but actual rainfall readings can help correlate their estimates. Even if your report is not current, offer it to the net when there is a gap in traffic.

* Finally, the SKYWARN Net is monitored by law enforcement, emergency government agencies, news media, and others. Maintain a professional attitude when checking in. "Amateur" should describe the name of our radio service, not our performance.

When necessary, SKYWARN-related announcements will be made to the ham community on three regular nets. They are the CWRA Swap Net (Sundays at 10 AM on the 146.88 repeater), the Dane County ARES Net (Wednesdays at 8:00 PM on the 147.15 repeater in Madison), the MARA Net (Wednesdays at 9:00 PM on the 147.15 repeater in Madison), and the Madison Info Net (Thursdays at 8:00 PM on the 147.15 repeater in Madison).

The National Weather Service has made it known that amateurs' severe weather observations on the SKYWARN Net assist them in making timely warnings to the public.

-73- Tom WJ9H
February 26, 1999