GREAT FALLS – On Saturday, the Great Falls Area Amateur Radio Club tuned into SKYWARN Recognition Day at the National Weather Service site in the Electric City.
The SKYWARN program partners the National Weather Service with amateur radio operators across the country to help share information.
“If we’ve got severe weather conditions like a blizzard or a severe thunderstorm outbreak or flooding, those are conditions that the Weather Service would activate us,” said Rod Jackson, President of the Great Falls Area Amateur Radio Club (GFAARC).
The National Weather service has no shortage of technology, but SKYWARN operators help get them information on the ground.
“They don’t ever want to have a situation where the radar, the weather radar, is missing something so they want that ground truth coming back to them from ground observers,” said GFAARC member Bruce Clark.
The use of amateur radio operators may seem behind the times, but when disaster strikes they can be a lifeline.
“In a worst case scenario, radio based communication, particularly amateurs, is not totally dependent on fixed resources like towers like cell phones are,” said Jackson. “We can set up expediently with very little need for infrastructure like hard power. We can use a car battery or a portable generator and run an antenna outside on a pole.”
This time it’s all about practice. Club members spent the day reaching as many Weather Service sites as they could to send a simple hello and share current weather conditions.
Each time a different radio operator was reached, the group crossed them off the list and got back to the airwaves.
It’s a simple exchange that helps prepare for the unforeseen.
“Amateur radio comes through when all else fails,” said Clark.
More than 50 NWS sites registered to participate in SKYWARN Recognition Day and with difficult conditions, GFAARC members reached 36 operators from Boston to Las Angeles and plenty in between including 13 other NWS sites.
If you are interested in the GFAARC, you can find more information on their website.
For more information about SKYWARN, visit its website.
Reporting by Joe Huisinga for MTN News