A Newsletter for Emergency
Managers & Storm Spotters
Spring Edition, 2001
|Weather Hazards Awareness Week Planned
by Dick Westergard
The National Weather Service in New York and Vermont, in cooperation with state and local governments, the American Red Cross and the media, will observe our thirteenth annual Weather Hazards Awareness Week (WHAW) March 18 through 24. As usual, it will serve the dual purpose of testing communications systems, and raising public awareness of potential hazards posed by weather events in our region. Communications tests are planned statewide on March 20 and 22. A mock severe thunderstorm warning will be issued Tuesday morning, and a mock tornado warning will be issued Thursday afternoon. Those messages will be originated at all five offices serving Vermont and New York. Emergency managers, spotters and the media are all invited to participate in the drill, whether you are in the two states holding WHAW or not.
National Weather Service Special Event 2000
by Steve Pertgen, W2FXJ
On December 2nd, 2000, the second annual National Weather Service Special Event (NWSSE) took place nationwide. This event was cosponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and the National Weather Service (NWS).
The purpose of this annual event is to thank the Amateur Radio community for its support throughout the year during hazardous weather events. The Ham Radio operators, through the NWS SKYWARN program, are the eyes and ears of the local forecast office, often providing critical weather information otherwise not readily available to NWS forecasters.
During this event, the Albany NWS SKYWARN station (WX2ALY) was staffed by the station trustee (W2FXJ) for the
entire 24 hour period. He was also joined by Dave Kinnerson, WB2VXS; Jim Norton, N2BGK; Dennis Hudson, N2LBT; Tony Pazzola, W2BEJ and Raleigh Keeter, K2RI. Despite limited resources and only having one operating position, the Albany office made 182 contacts in 32 states, of which 22 were other NWS offices throughout the country.
Exploiting the Automatic Position Report System (APRS) coupled with a Davis Instruments weather station, Dennis (N2LBT) managed to make 14 contacts utilizing the systems messaging abilities. Five of those stations were NWS offices. Some European APRS stations also contacted us, however return packets were not pathed correctly.
Once again, it has been proven that amateur radio is a viable alternative to commercial communications during natural disasters.
How The Internet Modernized Data Collection
By Vasil Koleci, Meteorologist
Before the days of the World Wide Web, data reported to the National Weather Service was reported by telephone. This process would involve making and receiving phone calls to and from various spotters, agencies and stations. To streamline that process, several new internet based reporting forms have been developed at the Albany NWS office over the past year.
The first group of forms, developed in Spring 2000, resulted in the automation of the morning hydrology collection. This collection consists of reports from various river/stream stations, coop observers and other reporting stations. These forms are available to specific cooperators who routinely report hydrologic data. The collection of data via these forms on the internet, allows
|those cooperators to enter their data directly, without the intervening human error
potential. Thus their data is available to the whole world faster, with less errors.
This process also frees up forecasters to place more emphasis on current and
Another major accomplishment that the World Wide Web allowed was the creation of a severe weather report entry form. This form, newly available for the 2001 convective season, allows SKYWARN spotters to report severe weather situations to the National Weather Service office at Albany, NY. When a user completes this form on the internet and hits submit, an alarm goes off at the warning workstation. The form includes a space for the Spotter's ID number, so that forecasters can identify reports from trained spotters. Severe weather reports are vital to meteorologists making warning decisions. This reporting avenue will supplement the traditional phone calls to our 800 number. The severe weather reporting form can be found in the Special Programs\SKYWARN section of our web site at http://web.nws.cestm.albany.edu/Severe%20Wx/severereport.htm. Spotters, set your bookmarks today!
Your National Weather Service will continue to work to improve our warning programs, taking advantage of technology as it becomes available.
Capitalizing on Volunteerism
by Steve Pertgen, DAPM
As manager of the NWS Cooperative Weather Observer Network, I receive many queries from individuals that own their own weather equipment, concerning how they may be able to assist us. Before now, we were limited by the constraints of the Cooperative Program, requiring use of only NWS issued equipment, rigid reporting requirements and a specific station density within each county. All of these requirements are necessary in order to maintain the integrity of the nation's climate data base.
In November, a new observation program was born. The Supplemental Weather Information Network (SWIN) was formed, utilizing those volunteers who did not qualify for inclusion in the Cooperative Weather Observer Network, but who owned their own equipment and wanted to share their observations with the NWS.
What separates this program from the Cooperative Program is the way the data is used. The primary use for the Cooperative Program data is for publication in the national climate data base. The data from the SWIN observers is used primarily in the forecast and warning programs at the Albany office of the NWS.
|As the program matures, the partner observers will be reporting not only
temperatures and precipitation but also winds and other meteorological
phenomena, dependent upon their equipment.
Since the programs inception, most observers have been regularly reporting snowfall during snow events. Their reports have made a significant difference in our decision-making abilities.
To learn more about the program, visit the SWIN section of our web site.
Army MARS Comes to the Albany NWS
by Steve Pertgen, AAA2NY
In December of 2000, the NWS office at Albany received it's Army MARS Club license, AAT2CAA. Why you ask? "The NWS already has a SKYWARN station located at the office! What is MARS and of what benefit would a station at the NWS be?"
MARS is the acronym for Military Affiliate Radio System. There are three services within MARS; Army, Air Force and Navy-Marine Corps. The entire system operates under the auspices of the Department of Defense and each service administers their own program while working with the other services to provide a seamless coverage to their unified mission. The members, all licensed ham radio operators, go through a rigorous "basic training" course prior to receiving a "full" MARS license. Once completed with the training, these volunteers are professional traffic handlers, able to work well under pressure. MARS operations are scripted, providing a high degree of structure and discipline that gets the mission accomplished accurately and in a timely manner.
"Mission? Don't they just send Morale and Welfare messages to the service men and women around the world?" Yes, among other more vital roles. Improving communications technology has lifted much of the burden of passing Morale and Welfare messages from MARS, however, a much more important mission that you should be aware of, is the primary reason for MARS' existence.
The primary mission of MARS is to provide communications support for federal agencies responding to emergency situations. This is done by supporting state and local government efforts to save lives, protect public health, property, and to ensure individual safety.
Since the licensed volunteers in MARS operate outside the amateur radio bands, emergency communications are enhanced by having little or no interference, and by having direct communications with the Director of Military Support (DOMS). DOMS is
|much like a clearing house for information, of which many of the federal agencies
are members. The primary disaster relief agencies supported by MARS are
FEMA, National Communications System (NCS) including Shared Resources
(SHARES), National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), National Weather
Service (NWS), State and Local disaster relief agencies and the Red Cross.
The US Army MARS Club station at the Albany office of the NWS can be a critical link. If or when a disaster strikes, the MARS network will be able to move via voice or digital means, critical information to specific agencies that ordinarily would not be able to receive such traffic.
During New York State's Weather Hazards Awareness Week, NYS Army MARS will conduct an exercise, mimicking a disaster caused by a hazardous weather event. This will be the first time that NYS Army MARS will have the MARS club station at the NWS office in operation during such an exercise which will add realism to the proceedings.
Weather Hazards Awareness Week is not only to heighten the public's awareness of hazardous weather, but also to test communications used to warn of the impending hazard. Additionally, it is also a test of those communications venues used to acquire specific information about the hazardous weather before, during and after the event.
These same forms of communications (radio), would be used during the aftermath of a disastrous event, to relay critical information to local, state and federal disaster relief agencies.
Although the actual exercise is still in the planning stages, a full report will be published in the next issue of Stormbuster.
To find out more about MARS, visit: http://www.asc.army.mil/mars
By Bob Kilpatrick, Service Hydrologist
Over the past years we have made many refinements to the process of forecasting river stages and flows. We now routinely issue a daily river statement which includes specific forecasts for 21 locations in eastern New York and adjacent New England.
Where we really need your help is in refining the levels of impact. As a river rises it affects different people or facilities such as roads, homes, and businesses.
When a flood occurs in your area please take a few minutes to find out some specific information about it, and pass it along to us. You may either e-mail the Service Hydrologist (Bob Kilpatrick) directly from the NWS
by Dick Westergard
It has been a while since our last StormBuster. I would like to welcome our new readers, and invite everyone to submit ideas for articles in future issues. We are sometimes not sure what you would like to see in your newsletter. More research? More climate information? Anecdotes from spotters who saw "the big one"? Drop us an e-mail or a snailmail.
As we approach summer, it seems appropriate to remind everyone of what we'd like you to call us about, during the convective season (May through October). 1) Tornadoes, water spouts, funnel clouds, wall clouds. 2) Damaging Winds (58 mph or more). 3) Any hail. 4) Damaging lightning. 5) Flooding, including bankfull or near bankfull streams. 6) Measured rainfall - 1.5 inches or more in 4 hours.
This year, we are ready to accept your severe weather reports via the internet. See the full article in this issue of StormBuster for details.
As usual, please check your mailing label. It contains the date of your last training. If that date is more than 2 years ago, you should plan to attend another training session soon. Once that date is more than 5 years in the past, your name will be purged from our database. If you are due for training, check out our web site for a schedule of spotter training sessions set for April and May.
National Weather Service Forecast Office
251 Fuller Road, Suite B-300
Albany, NY 12203-3640