NWS Wakefield SKYWARN
Amateur Radio Support Team
WX4AKQ Wakefield, VA
This page attempts to answer many of the frequently asked questions about our team and the SKYWARN program. If there's something you'd like to know that's not listed here, take a look at our Other Q&A Topics, check the SKYWARN Operations Manual, SKYWARN Training Portal, or send us an e-mail.
How does the SKYWARN ham radio team decide to activate?
Activation decisions are based on an internal analysis of forecasts and model data, collaboration with NWS personnel, and gut instinct. NWS may formally request activation of SKYWARN Spotters and/or amateur radio nets, but usually the activation decision is made by amateur radio team leadership.
How do I know if SKYWARN will be active?
Spotters can watch the Hazardous Weather Outlook from NWS Wakefield for guidance. The HWO will not reflect amateur radio net activation, only general Spotter activation.
Amateur radio net activation is communicated through various internal and external communications channels, including the SKYWARN Activation Notification text product, social media, and, for major events, our web site.
Can I get activation notifications via e-mail?
Yes. E-mail weather alerts are available through the SKYWARN Situation Awareness Dashboard. This is a free service. Once you are registered and approved for membership on the site, look for the E-mail Weather Alerts service.
Can a SKYWARN Net Control Operator decide to self-activate a net?
Yes. All trained and certified SKYWARN Net Control Operators may choose to self-activate, completely independent of any official SKYWARN activation request.
The idea is that nobody has a better idea of what's going on locally than a Net Control Operator who is sitting right under a storm.
Self-activations are usually not communicated through our standard notification channels and often take the form of an informal announcement on a SKYWARN repeater.
When is the WX4AKQ SKYWARN Radio Desk activated?
We activate WX4AKQ at the Wakefield WFO very rarely. We are generally there only for major tropical events like hurricanes and tropical storms, and for some high-impact winter weather events.
Our team is structured to operate efficiently with a number of distributed local nets rather than one big net or rotating nets run from the WFO. Given the remote and rather inconvenient location of the WFO, it is challenging to find volunteers to send. Additionally, the safety of our team members is of utmost importance, and there are many severe weather events where we would really prefer our folks aren't out on the roads.