SKYWARN Rag-chewing?

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jonwienke

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Most of the traffic on the local SKYWARN freqs in my area sounds like typical ham rag-chewing--general discussion of radios, hemorrhoidectomies, activities of children/grandchildren, and suchlike. I have yet to hear any actual weather-related traffic. Is this normal, or do some people need to be retrained or fired or something?
 

empire550

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Most repeaters are ham repeaters that are used when Skywarn is activated. Other time is is open for use by owner approved Hams.
 

mikey60

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Was there bad weather in the area at the time? If so, was there a Skywarn net in progress? If not, the repeater is no different than any other repeater in the HAM world. In my area, the repeater used for Skywarn is open for normal use as long as there isn't a net in progress.

Mike
 

jonwienke

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There was no severe weather in the area at the time, so it sounds like the traffic would be normal then.
 

dave6890

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Most of the traffic on the local SKYWARN freqs in my area sounds like typical ham rag-chewing--general discussion of radios, hemorrhoidectomies, activities of children/grandchildren, and suchlike. I have yet to hear any actual weather-related traffic. Is this normal, or do some people need to be retrained or fired or something?
Many of the Skywarn Nets are on repeaters an are active when needed. These repeaters are used for general chatter except for during Nets or priority situations. I know that up here in Northwest Connecticut, a repeater in Torrington hosts an ARES SM/SEC net every Sunday night at 8:00pm. I take part in the region 5 ARES net that happens on Wednesday nights at 7:30 on a repeater right up the road from me.

So no, nobody needs to be retrained or fired. My only concern would be if someone is passing BS emergency traffic or interfering with priority traffic.
 
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My local Skywarn repeater acts as a normal repeater unless in the case of Skywarn activation. Coincidently, at my Skywarn class the other night I ran into both the trustee of thst repeater but two other local repeater trustees as well. Small world, eh?
 

N0VGL

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In my area there is only one repeater which is actually in the next county that could be called a dedicated Skywarn repeater. The main Skywarn repeater for my area is owned and maintained by a local club that also maintains several other two meter repeaters which are listed as backup Skywarn repeaters. Most of the time they are used by all area operators for what-ever. The local A.R.E.S. group also uses one for their weekly net. It's something the club can point to as a "public service".
 

n0nhp

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The local system (of which I am a part owner) is a system of linked repeaters, they are open for general use unless a net is in operation. We use the system both for SkyWarn, RACES and SAR. During those events a net control will ask rag-chewers to move or hold their traffic unless urgent.
We have discussed changing the transmit and receive Subaudible tone during closed net operations, however many of the users especially on the SAR net have trouble just finding what machine to operate on depending on location. Trying to train them to change to a different tone would probably break the system.

The operation of the repeater will depend on the owner and what their priorities are. There is not one answer for all.
For the general scanner listener that would like to only monitor SkyWarn activities and when they see a repeater listed in RR or other databases, I am sure it is a disappointment to have the general chatter. Having the repeater open for general use makes sure the equipment is in good order when it is needed for a priority situation. If the machine is silent until needed, the operator never knows if the power supply took a dump in the last week since the "Sunday night net".

Bruce
 

N5TWB

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The local system (of which I am a part owner) is a system of linked repeaters, they are open for general use unless a net is in operation. We use the system both for SkyWarn, RACES and SAR. During those events a net control will ask rag-chewers to move or hold their traffic unless urgent.
We have discussed changing the transmit and receive Subaudible tone during closed net operations, however many of the users especially on the SAR net have trouble just finding what machine to operate on depending on location. Trying to train them to change to a different tone would probably break the system.

The operation of the repeater will depend on the owner and what their priorities are. There is not one answer for all.
For the general scanner listener that would like to only monitor SkyWarn activities and when they see a repeater listed in RR or other databases, I am sure it is a disappointment to have the general chatter. Having the repeater open for general use makes sure the equipment is in good order when it is needed for a priority situation. If the machine is silent until needed, the operator never knows if the power supply took a dump in the last week since the "Sunday night net".

Bruce
Excellent points and part of a recent round-robin e-mail discussion concerning the UHF linked system in NE Oklahoma that was created to be the SKYWARN system that ties into the Tulsa NWS office. One club officer made the point you made in the final paragraph about ensuring system viability for use when needed. A repeater owner (not all repeaters are owned by the club) expressed concern about usage along the lines of what the OP said about general ham chatter. We've also experienced some malicious interference that is being looked into by the Trustee. Overall, a primary point of emphasis has been to allow a break between transmissions that is long enough for all the repeater transmitters to drop and not time out due to "tailgating" by operators.
 

W8RMH

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Our central Ohio repeater transmits a "W" after each transmission to let the listeners/users know it is in WX mode (the SKYWARN net is up).

It is a good repeater but they take way too many non-qualified reports to be of any use and these just tie up the channel.

I call The National Weather Service Office directly via cell phone, it's faster and more accurate to eliminate the middle man, plus they can ask questions if they need more information.

Amateur radio systems were great at one time but with today's modern technologies (smart phones, apps, etc) they are obsolete.
 

MTS2000des

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The gas bagging and irrelevant traffic are why the NWS in Atlanta stopped using ham radio in the storm center two years ago. They found it too distracting to the forecasters and just made their job more difficult.

Their solution was to solicit storm reports via email, web form, EMWIN and other tools from ham nets being held outside of NWS and funnel them in along with reports from public safety, and other non-ham storm spotters, as well as media and civilians.

I encourage anyone who wants to be a storm spotter to contact your local NWS office about classes in your area. Contrary to popular belief, you need NOT to be a ham (SKYWARN itself is a program of the National Weather Service). Taking the classes will help you know what and when to report to the NWS, regardless of how you choose to do it.
 

JulietAlphaKilo

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It's funny that the OP brings this up, because I decided to listen in on our local Skywarn net last week and this is pretty much what I heard during a Severe Thunderstorm Watch. There were some basic storm reports, but nothing reaching severe parameters. Interestingly enough, the watch expired following an afternoon of relatively small shower activity, and then an epic lightning storm with severe warnings arrived around midnight with the Skywarn net being dead quiet as far as I could tell.

As far as the basic chatter during the day, periodically the NCO would break in and inform everyone that Skywarn reports had priority. Those chatting away were reminded to provide breaks in between brief chatter. Apparently, this is only true during standby mode when a watch is present but no warnings are. During LWX CWA warnings it becomes a directed net.

Some of the NWS Skywarn ARS groups IME are very well coordinated and professional. I haven't been involved long enough to share experiences elsewhere, but I will certainly add more input as I travel and experience other CWAs.

Regarding the phones, especially cells, given my experience I've viewed them as tools that can and will fail. I certainly keep the appropriate numbers for Skywarn written down, as well as plugged into my cell, and I possess solid, reliable NWS contacts via phone and email, but I'll always keep a radio handy. Redundancy is a good thing.
 

n5ims

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The gas bagging and irrelevant traffic are why the NWS in Atlanta stopped using ham radio in the storm center two years ago. They found it too distracting to the forecasters and just made their job more difficult.

Their solution was to solicit storm reports via email, web form, EMWIN and other tools from ham nets being held outside of NWS and funnel them in along with reports from public safety, and other non-ham storm spotters, as well as media and civilians.

I encourage anyone who wants to be a storm spotter to contact your local NWS office about classes in your area. Contrary to popular belief, you need NOT to be a ham (SKYWARN itself is a program of the National Weather Service). Taking the classes will help you know what and when to report to the NWS, regardless of how you choose to do it.
Our local NWS has a separate group (many are hams, but not all are) that handles all public reports (including those from public safety agencies). They filter and consolidate them prior to handing them off to the forecasters. Basically the only folks with direct access to the forecasters are that group and the select few that are on the invitation only chat session. To be invited to join that group, you basically need to be one of the media folks that are either directly on-air or their appointed interfaces, NWS staff members, and very few outsiders that have been fully vetted and generally have degrees relevant to the field. All else must use e-mail, web forms, phones (public #s or private #s for public service and the like), facebook/twitter/etc., ham SkyWarn nets, etc. that to through that group.

Most SkyWarn nets are somewhat closed and require either RACES or ARES membership numbers (they must be current and not something you got ages ago and never renewed). To keep current, folks must regularly check into training nets (generally at least half of those held annually), be active during live nets (not every net, but don't miss too many), participate in training sessions (they may be totally made up for training or relevant types of nets for actual events, races, etc.), be current in SkyWarn classes (attend at least every other year), and be certified as passing specific FEMA, ARES, and/or ARRL classes.
 

KD0TAZ

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In Kansas, Skywarn/ARES/RACES nets are run on the K-Link Repeater Network (KS0LNK) - a system of 41 linked repeaters that offer coverage over virtually the entire state. On any normal day, you will just hear general BS - there's even a group that gets on every morning and talks about whatever, and any ham is welcome to join in. With solid border-to-border coverage on both I-70 and I-135/US-81, it's popular with travelers. However on severe weather days, once the net goes up, it is off limits unless you have something to report or an emergency (there's a little voice that says "SKYWARN NET ACTIVE" every few minutes to remind people)..
 

elk2370bruce

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Like any other specific-use on an amateur repeater, operator and net discipline is essential to get the job done - whether RACES, ARES, SKYWARN, etc. There are many very successful Skywarn nets around the country and those frown on idle chit-chat and rag chew during net operations and enforced by the designated net control. There are also those that sound more like morning commute and cb operations and those are the ones that NWS has stopped supporting. We may be amateur radio but there is no reason not to operate in a professional manner when it counts the most..
 
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