Hurricane Isabel appears to be heading towards a landfall somewhere between North Carolina and Virginia. If the storm strikes North Carolina, the best current guess is that it will take place sometime on Thursday September 18th. Right now the entire state is potentially at risk, with the eastern part of the state closest to the center of the potential track area.
Although expected to weaken over the next few days, this storm could still cause considerable wind destruction near the storm center and flooding over a wider area. With much of our ground saturated from the heavy rain we have had this year, North Carolinians should be prepared for the possibility of flooding even if the storm moves well to the east of us.
I encourage each of you to make personal preparations for the storm. In addition, I hope you will be able to contribute to amateur radio disaster communications if necessary.
Disasters such as hurricanes give us a few days warning to prepare. Make sure your personal preparations for the storm are in order TODAY. You will be unable to help with disaster communications if you must deal with personal, family or property issues in the aftermath of the storm. Advance preparation can sometimes minimize the impact of the storm on your life, but even then you can't be sure. We understand this.
Having a family emergency plan means making sure you have adequate access to food, drinking water and medicine; and have a plan for meeting or contacting loved ones in the event you have to evacuate. Make sure your vehicles have plenty of fuel. Fuel will be unavailable after the storm if electricity is lost.
If in doubt, evacuate; I'd rather you be alive to help out during the next storm even if it means leaving during this one. Very few people die from hurricane winds; flooding causes most storm-related deaths. Joel Kline of the National Weather Service once said "if you can see the water, you're too close!"
More information about a family emergency preparedness plan can be found at the following web site, courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security: http://www.ready.gov
Make sure all equipment is in working order, all batteries are charged, generators are working and so forth. Do this TODAY, not during the storm, so you can remedy any problems before then. Make sure you have printed copies of radiograms, operating aids and so forth - do NOT count on being able to access this information on a computer after the storm.
If you are willing to operate a radio at a shelter or served agency, let your County EC know. Make sure you have a "ready kit" to take your supplies with you. Besides radio supplies, you may need to include food, water, clothing and medicine if it is a long-term deployment. Take medicine anyway in case you get stranded unexpectedly.
If the hurricane requires a statewide activation, Tar Heel Emergency Net operations will take place on 3923 kHz more or less continuously until the worst is over. If this happens, listen carefully, and follow the net control's instructions. Other nets will continue to run in most cases.
You may find it helpful to listen to the Hurricane Watch Net, which if activated will take place on 14.325 MHz USB. More information about this net can be found on the web at: http://www.hwn.org
If the Internet becomes unavailable to you, W1AW voice bulletins are broadcast daily at 9:45 PM on 1.855, 3.99, 7.29, 14.29, 18.16, 21.39, and 28.59 MHz. Official Bulletin Stations in your area may have information on your local nets also.
Our official NC Section HF net frequencies are as follows:
3573 kHz -- Carolinas Net (CW) -- 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm
3695 kHz -- Carolinas Slow Net (CW) -- 8:00 pm
3923 kHz -- North Carolina Evening Net (LSB) -- 6:30 pm
3923 kHz -- Tar Heel Emergency Net (LSB) -- 7:30 pm plus whenever activated
3927 kHz -- North Carolina Morning Net (LSB) -- 7:45 am
7232 kHz -- Tar Heel Emergency Net (LSB) -- whenever activated
In addition to our official ARRL nets, an independent net, the Coastal Carolina Emergency Net (3907 kHz LSB) -- 7:00 pm is willing to handle Health and Welfare traffic. Be aware that most inbound Health and Welfare traffic is very difficult to deliver.
Those of you outside the disaster area will be very valuable to us. We will need net control stations with reliable electricity and telephone service. We will need others to relay messages and perform other tasks also.
If the FCC issues a Declaration of Communications Emergency, please observe it whether it is voluntary or mandatory.
Remember that other states will almost certainly need to activate their nets. If someone asks you to change frequency because they are handling disaster communications, take their word for it and honor their request!
With any luck, the storm will miss us and we won't have to worry about it. That does NOT look likely today. Make sure you are prepared; it's better to be prepared and not need it than to be unprepared and have to deal with the stress of the disaster.
John Covington, W4CC
ARRL NC Section Manager