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Posted Apr 29, 2011


In the latter half of April, two deadly storm systems marched across North Carolina as part of a wave of severe weather which swept from the Gulf States and the Plains eastward. For North Carolina, these storms caused extensive property damage, with the April 16-17 storms killing 24 in our state - the deadliest storms since 1984 in terms of loss of life. A comparison between the 1984 and April 16-17, 2011 storms shows that the 2011 had more and powerful tornadoes, yet far fewer lives were lost. SKYWARN has been praised by the National Weather Service (NWS) for being a key contributor in reducing the amount of property damage and lives saved. Many reports from SKYWARN spotters helped NWS with its reporting to commercial media outlets, and got warnings out to the public much faster than in 1984. Special thanks go to the operators and spotters of the Triad, Central Carolina, Wilmington and Newport NWS SKYWARN teams, as well as the Wakefield, VA NWS Area 7 spotters in northeastern NC. During a period when tornadoes were threatening the Raleigh NWS office, Central Carolina SKYWARN EC Virginia Enzor, NC4VA, and her team were instructed by the meteorologist in charge to abandon SKYWARN's third floor operating position and proceed to shelter in the basement until the threat passed.

At RARSfest last Saturday, several Hams told of antennas and towers coming down in the storms. Hollis Thigpen, KX3C, of Snow Hill in Greene County, had his home destroyed. A story on Hollis's damage and how he and his wife escaped personal injury aired on New Bern ABC affiliate, Channel 12, WCTI-TV, and can be seen at

There was one ARES activation. George Diering, W3GJD, Wilson County EC, was at the county EOC as tornadoes ripped fields and several buildings in downtown Wilson.

Jeff Orrock, KI4KKX, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the NWS office in Raleigh, summed up the recent efforts of SKYWARN this way, "From the NWS perceptive the SKYWARN activations and reports called into the nets as well as on our 800 spotter line were excellent. The reports painted a picture for us of exactly what was occurring and matched perfectly with radar. During the height of the event it was difficult if not impossible to communicate with local 911 centers. SKYWARN spotters played a vital role filling in the gaps for us and allowed the NWS to issue very detailed and timely warnings, statements and reports. SKYWARN reports no doubt helped to save lives, and everyone at the local NWS offices as well as TV stations are grateful for all the dedication of SKYWARN volunteers and especially the ECs, AECs and net controllers."

If you're not part of SKYWARN, consider becoming trained by NWS as a spotter and becoming part of the SKYWARN team. If you're not sure whom to contact to learn more, send me an email at Again, heartfelt thanks to the hundreds of Ham Radio operators who helped with these deadly storms.

STATE ARES MEETING POSTPONED UNTIL LATER DATE The annual state Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) meeting scheduled for Saturday, April 30th at North Carolina Emergency Management's (NCEM) state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Raleigh has been postponed to a date which will be announced in the future. NCEM officials said the room were the meeting was to be held would likely be occupied for post-storm assessment.

MEDIA HITS North Carolina State meteorology senior Kevin Smith, K4BGM, and NC State Meteorology alumnus Jeremy Gilchrist of Southern Pines were quoted on NC State's on line news website on helping with Central Carolina SKYWARN. The Raleigh News & Observer featured a video Gilchrist took of a tornado touching down near Wilson and commenting on why storm chasers pursue tornadoes at So far Gilchrist's You Tube video has had almost 150,000 hits. Two local clubs were in the news for receiving repeater grants: The United Way of Mitchell County donated $1,500. to the Mayland Amateur Radio Club (MARC), and officers of Fayetteville's Cape Fear Amateur Radio Society (CFARS) were shown on pg. 13 of May QST for getting $3,500.00 for repeater maintenance and upgrades from the South River Electric Membership Corporation.

HURRICANE AWARENESS DAY Lest you think we're only reporting on tornadoes, Hurricane Awareness Day in North Carolina is Wednesday, May 4th. The Newport NWS SKYWARN team, headed by EC John Hopkins KJ4EJH, will be at Cherry Point Marine Air Station (MAS) that day as part of NOAA's five day Hurricane Awareness Tour and the only tour stop in North Carolina. Details at: On May 7th, Wilmington NWS will host Stormfest at the Cape Fear Museum in Wilmington in conjunction with local SKYWARN.

NTS DIGITAL A team of ARRL volunteers has been working to update relaying of NTS traffic through digital modes. North Carolina Section Traffic Manager (STM) Dave Roy, W4DNA, just opened a dedicated digital station running Winlink Classic. Dave joins Bill McClymont, W1REP, of Hillsborough and Rick Parker, W4UEF, of Greenville in hosting dedicated NTS digital stations in NC. To learn how to send and receive NTS digital email, go to NTS in North Carolina and nationally is looking to expand its digital email system. If you have a radio modem or TNC (HF, VHF or UHF) you're not using, please consider a donation which will help the system to expand. For more details, contact Dave at Dave's station will be 7100.4 MHz center frequency 0600 to 1800 Eastern, and 3591.9 MHz center frequency from 1900 to 0600 Eastern. The expanding digital team augments the phone and CW NTS nets which meet daily in North Carolina.

MOTHER'S DAY RADIOGRAM There's been a lot of discussion recently about the role of Radiograms. Many will remember until a few years ago, local Ham clubs would often have a booth at fairs where Radiograms were sent for free. Now, as then, the final delivery of the message is most often not a paper version but rather a local Ham relaying the message to the recipient by phone. With cell phones and the internet easily accessible, the public sometimes scratches its head as to the purpose of a Radiogram today. Also, thanks to shameless telemarketers, those dedicated operators who attempt to deliver a Radiogram by phone sometimes get an unwanted earful from the recipient for disturbing them. There are occasions, however, when a message can transcend today's suspicious environment and genuinely be welcomed, and one of those occasions is Mother's Day. Sending a Radiogram is still a good skill to know and it's easy. Try composing a Radiogram by using a blank form at then upload it either digitally, or by checking into of the NC NTS nets at This is one time I'm sure the receiving operator who calls the recipient will get a warm welcome.

FIELD DAY PLANNING May is the perfect time to begin Field Day planning. Many clubs overlook the easy way to earn points, such as being in a public place, having a public information table at your site, inviting elected officials to your location, getting a served agency to visit your FD site, and sending out a release to local media. These five actions alone are worth 100 points apiece - 500 in total. The Field Day locator is up and running on the ARRL website. Register your location at Meanwhile, ARRL has developed a great two-sided poster this year. One side contains space for you to write in your Field Day location and hours to invite the public, and the other side is an explanation of Field Day for non-Hams. Be sure to look at it at and order it and your other FD supplies now so you're not scrambling in June.

SILENT KEYS We regret to report the passing of Jack Barbera, KF4KNL, of Monroe.

PUBLIC SERVICE Many thanks to the newly licensed 6th grade students from Roger Bacon Academy in Leland who helped with the Coastal Carolina Airshow in Wilmington on April 16th. Assisting with crowd control communications were Elizabeth Eskander, KK4BJT; Zach Potter, KK4BJU and Samantha Stearns, KK4BJS. Joining them wasTopsail 6th grader Nevin Wetherill, KJ4WLP.

UPCOMING PUBLIC SERVICE EVENTS April 30, MS Walk, Wilmington; April 30, TarWheel Century Bike Race, Elizabeth City; May 21, CAM Relay for Life, Cary.

SPECIAL EVENT STATIONS May 14, 0800-1600 local, W4V, celebrating All American Week at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum (ASOM) in Fayetteville. 14.250 MHz. Sponsored by South Wake ARC.

HAMFESTS May 14, Rockingham County Swapfest, Calvary Baptist Church 7860 NC Hwy 87, Reidsville, Talk-In 146.85 (PL 103.5); May 28, DurHAMfest, Little River Community Complex, 8307 North Roxboro Rd., Bahama, NC 27503, Talk-In 147.225.

NTS REPORTS - March, 2011. QNI (Net Stations Check-In) 3375 (up 864 or 34%), Messages passed 734 (up 363 or 98%) STATION ACTIVITY REPORTS (SARs) WK4P 662 (BPL* level), K4IWW 572 (BPL* Level), KI4YV 250, W4DNA 171, W2EAG 168, W3HL 110, KD4FUN 80, W4TTO 67, KC4PGN 48, KE4AHC 39, WB4Y 33, K8SKX 31, KD5SM 25, KA4IZN 24, W4AGT 24, NC4VA 12. PUBLIC SERVICE HONOR ROLL (PSHR) NC4VA 180, K4IWW 130, W4DNA 130, WK4P 115, W2EAG 110, W4TTO 100, KI4YV 90, KD4FUN 81. *-Brass Pounders League (BPL) for those who handle more than 100 messages a month or who earn more than 500 points per month in the National Traffic System (NTS).

LAST WORD Many who were licensed in 1984 recall the havoc and uncertainty which resulted in the deaths of almost 45 in our state when the last deadly round of tornadoes came through 27 years ago. The loss of 24 lives this time is equally sad, but could have been worse. In the past quarter century, both weather forecasting and public communications have become much better. This while the population of North Carolina has increased 52% in that time from 6.1 million to 9.3 million.. Part of that improved environment is due to the hundreds of dedicated SKYWARN spotters across North Carolina. Their reports to NWS meteorologists during weather events provide the critical ground information radar cannot confirm. Input from SKYWARN spotters is inserted into NWS forecasting models, permitting meteorologists to refine projections and relay precise information to commercial media outlets and to the public in a timely manner. SKYWARN is a successful Amateur Radio and NWS collaboration. When the skies are fair, we tend to forget the many hours of training which spotters undergo and the hours of maintaining their equipment. It's only events like those of the past two weeks which bring their selfless contributions to the forefront, and make us realize and appreciate the dedication of these operators. With 46% of North Carolina's 18,800 licensed Hams as Technicians, SKYWARN is an excellent avenue for new Hams to learn net participation skills which can serve them well later as they upgrade and acquire HF privileges. If you've never been a SKYWARN spotter, or it's been a few years since you've had spotter training, contact your local NWS office and sign up for a free training class, either in person or on line. You'll be helping others, your family, and yourself.

Bill Morine, N2COP
ARRL North Carolina Section Manager