As the Northeast finishes cleanup from last weekend's blizzard, ham radio volunteers are credited with providing crucial real-time weather updates.
SKYWARN, a cooperative venture of ham operators and the National Weather Service, was activated for the February 8th and 9th storm that left up to three feet of snow across Connecticut and brought the state to a standstill.
While media outlets were broadcasting blizzard warnings, SKYWARN hams were reporting local snowfall, temperature and wind conditions in all eight Connecticut counties, says Steve Williams, district emergency coordinator for SKYWARN.
"All information received was passed on to the three National Weather Service offices that cover Connecticut. At least two of the forecast offices had amateur radio stations operational," he said.
Those NWS offices included ham station WX1BOX in Taunton, Mass., which checked into radio nets for Hartford, Tolland and Windham Counties, to take reports from spotters.
WX2ALY, a station at the weather service office in Albany, New York checked into the SKYWARN net for Litchfield County, Williams said.
Meanwhile, SKYWARN spotters in Fairfield and New Haven counties reported to the NWS office in Upton, Long Island.
The Hartford and Tolland County hams were active from about 2 p.m. on Friday through Saturday morning, and that included radio check-ins at 4 and 6 a.m. on Saturday, says Roger Jeanfaivre, regional coordinator.
"There were 181 reports given in these nets. There was a huge response to this blizzard by SKYWARN on a statewide basis," he said.
From a weather forecaster's point of view, ham radio has always been a valuable asset, according to Gil Simmons, meteorologist at WTNH-TV in New Haven, and a contributor to the weather buff site WXEdge.com.
Simmons said he typically relies on spotter information for both summer and winter storms.
The SKYWARN program nationwide is made up of thousands of volunteers, and not all of them are ham radio operators.
See the SKYWARN / NOAA national page here.
For more information on becoming a local spotter in Connecticut, visit CTSKYWARN.com.