SKYWARN Recognition Day turned out to be some good low-key fun. It wasn’t a contest, per se. It was an exercise in seeing how many other National Weather stations could reach each other, and to engage the general public in contacting them.
The HF bands were almost completely dead all night. Eric KC1HJK worked HF first, and managed to reach a weather station in Melbourne, FL right at midnight – after about 15 minutes of trying to break through. Then, I picked up where Eric left off, and he slid down to the 2-meter (VHF), DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) and EchoLink (Internet-linked radio) setup where he continued to rack up the contacts. Tom N1KTA, a retired weather service employee that stayed about half the night, hopped in for a while here and there, and worked some contacts.
Working the HF was akin to smelting with my grandfather and Dad up in Bowdoinham. We’d sit and wait, enjoy the company of each other while we’d pull one or two fish out of the water. Then we’d hit a run, where elbows are flying and we’re ripping lines of them out by the handful! That’s what happened at 7 AM EST. I was proud to pick up the National Weather Service Central Region HQ in Kansas City, MO, and the National Hurricane Center in Florida!
2m and DMR went quiet on Eric after the local folks went to bed. He continued to work EchoLink, and they’d eventually coordinate a Skywarn net on DMR. He filled up his log pretty quick.
All-in-all, I had a great time. It was a good family break day, where we each did our own thing. Jordan had an overnight with his cousin’s at my sister-in-law’s, which worked out because his uncle just went back on the road and they didn’t mind the company. Amy had a girls night in at the house and played games and watched movies.
And I got to play radio all night with some friends, like the old LAN parties I used to enjoy. I brought snacks and bottles of water. Got to meet some new people. The staff were warm and welcoming, even showed me how they use their RedHat Linux PCs and the specialized software to disseminate the weather data and create a forecast – and how they broadcast it to the masses; including VHF weather radio.
They have these radio monitors, like the old Plectron my father used in the early days of the Limington Fire Department. They use them to monitor the messaging coming from their VHF weather radio towers, which of course are computer text-to-speech read from the weather coding they pull out of the system. When we keyed up on 20m, ~14 MHz, we’d hear a haunting deep voiced version of our voice emanating from these speakers. It was so spooky, and I feared I was annoying the staff, I tended to avoid this band unless I knew people were on it. Eventually, a manager came in and was comfortable shutting off the receivers, about when the band opened up around 9 AM EST.
I look forward to the next event like this, Winter Field Day.