Hams Respond to Western PA Tornados
Western Pennsylvania Hams Respond as Tornado Sweeps Through Area
TAGS: amateur radio station, funnel cloud, ham station, national weather service, net control, nws office, severe thunderstorms, severe weather
At approximately 4:30 on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 23, severe thunderstorms started to roll into Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, producing golf ball-sized hail and heavy winds. Members of the Westmoreland County Public Service/ARES® group began to meet on the W3CRC repeater in Derry, Pennsylvania, which serves as the main ARES®/SKYWARN repeater in Westmoreland County. Soon after, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the area and the Public Service Net was opened formally at 5 PM. Walter Bashaw, W3ZEH, began taking check-ins and reports of severe weather, relaying them to the NWS in Pittsburgh.
“Hams reported a funnel cloud near the Fort Allen and greater Greensburg area to net control, and this information was reported to WX3PIT -- the Amateur Radio station at the NWS office in Pittsburgh -- 15 minutes before it was reported on the local TV stations,” ARRL Westmoreland County Emergency Coordinator Chuck Mills, W3YNI, told the ARRL. “The storm continued to move east toward Latrobe, where additional large sized hail was reported.”
Ralph Ofchinick, W3ZPI, and Jay Schall, KB3NSJ, activated the ham station at the Greensburg Emergency Operations Center, and continued to provide communications support. At 5:30 PM, a second, but not quite as strong storm, moved through the area, producing additional heavy rain and hail. Rick Varnise, K3EPV, deployed to a shelter in Hempfield Township that had been set up for victims of the tornado.
Mills said that the NWS classified the tornado as an F2 in strength, with winds topping 120 MPH. Many homes in the area were destroyed or damaged as the tornado continued along its seven mile path. Westmoreland County Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Dan Stevens said that the tornado destroyed at least 30 homes and damaged at least 90. There were no reports of serious injuries.
This sounds very much like what our Pine Valley Repeater Amateur Radio Club does when hazardous weather approaches Richland County in Wisconsin. Our EOC Communication Room is quickly manned and ready, and a list of available trained ham radio Storm Spotters is soon logged in. This happens quite often during the spring hazardous weather season.
Richland Center, WI, is host to one of the largest 3 day country/western concerts in the Midwest, and during one such concert, our Storm Spotters were called out due to severe weather approaching. Because of the reports by our radio operators, the concert grounds were cleared of over 10,000 people, and just as the storm hit, the last of the people were leaving the grounds. As a result, no one got hurt due to flying lawn chairs and other debris, lightning, or the resulting hail stones, some of where were as large as golf balls.
It is reassuring to know that ham radio operators are on duty during such storms.
"There were no reports of serious injuries" This is a good thing ! Always good to be of service to the community. We do the same here in northern Illinois, McHenry county, as do many others. Thanks to all for their hard work and and continued support.
I have to give credit to the local media on the fact that they where very fast on picking up on this storm Many TV stations in the Pittsburgh area (our local tv stations) stopped or really interrupted most programing and gave us locals very fast and accurate information on the progress of this storm. That i think had a lot to do with the "There were no reports of serious injuries" As we had a lot of advanced warning. My wife works at the Hempfield school that was hit. And said they was informed of the storms possible strength before the day ended and that to was a huge help. Hats off to every one that helped in this storm. (ps) any one want a 8x10 shed that has a roof full of golf ball sized holes through the roof i have just such of a animal
De Oppresso Liber.
Indeed it was a good day for Western PA Skywarn. I was listening to the Allegheny Co. net on 147.09 on the way home from work and heard about it there and was able to tell my parents (one who was a ham) before KDKA had announced anything.
I just had an HT in the car, so I likely wouldn't have made it to the repeater, but it gave lots of good information of where to avoid so I didn't get my car made into a golf ball.
Kudos to those involved.
Glad it was the shed and not your honored self!
Originally Posted by N3JBH
Golf ball size hail?
That would cause a headache big enough your aspirin would have to be the size of a washtub!