By Jill Burke of the Alaska Dispatch
November 12, 2011
The jet stream feeding the wintery sea-spun tempest that sideswiped Alaska’s western coast wasn’t the only worldwide conveyer belt in motion this week. As howling winds whipped up and crashing waves pounded beaches, the people who live in the remote, isolated villages along the storm’s path stayed connected via a web of global radio frequencies.
When other communications failed, ham radio operators came to the rescue. Throughout the storm, they were the eyes for scientists in Fairbanks and Anchorage who otherwise would have been blind to weather conditions they could predict but not see.
“They were providing critical observations. We don’t have a lot of meteorological observations in the west. We don’t have the instruments out there,” Carven Scott, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Anchorage, said Thursday as messages sent via the amateur radio network zapped into his inbox.
The messages were deceptively simple: how fast the wind was blowing and from what direction; sea level; wave height; whether it was snowing or raining; and the temperature. These seemingly small details from various villages made a big difference for the weather service — enough so, Scott said, that a lead forecaster told him, “Whatever you do, don’t cut it off because this stuff is really helping us.”
Through the ham radio network, Scott and his colleagues learned that river ice in Koyuk was backing up and spilling onto the banks, roofs had blown off in Nome, water was surging in Nome, and rain and snow were falling in Shaktoolik and Savoonga.
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CECA would like to thank Jill Burke and The Alaska Dispatch for the permission to reprint this articles stub. Please be sure to read the entire article on the Alaska Dispatch Site