Several wildfires across East Tennessee

Wildfire smoke causing poor visibility, Air Quality Alerts

Over the past couple of weeks, several wildfires have occurred across East Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, and Georgia, and smoke from these fires has resulted in several Air Quality alerts.

Most recently, the Walland, TN community in Blount County was affected by a major wildfire, currently spread over 1000 acres in mountainous areas, closing the Elementary School for a couple of days as the threat of the wildfire got close.

In Grainger County, a wildfire on Clinch Mountain threatens several homes, as well as a tower that houses several communications systems, including the 147.030 / 443.450 Lakeway Amateur Radio Club repeater. The repeaters were removed from the site and is off the air indefinitely.

The smoggy conditions are the result from lack of rain, low winds, and several fires simultaneously occurring, sending smoke into the region, even from out of state.

The cause of many of these wildfires is unknown, however, arson is suspected in many of them. Arrests have been made in some instances.

With very little rain in the forecast, poor air quality conditions are likely to continue through the Thanksgiving holiday into the weekend.

SKYWARN Recognition Day December 3, 2016!

Make plans to visit the National Weather Service office in Morristown from Friday, December 2 until Saturday December 3 for SKYWARN Recognition Day!

NWS offices will be active across the country to operate on HF, VHF, UHF, Digital, EchoLink, CW, voice, and much more!

The event runs from 0000z Saturday for 24 hours until 0000z Sunday. In Morristown, that’s 7PM ET Friday to 7PM ET Saturday.

You do not need to be a ham operator to attend.

For more information, visit the NOAA Website for participating stations and details.

FCC Approves New Emergency Alert System “Event Codes” for 2017 Hurricane Season

The FCC has added three new “event codes” to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) for the 2017 hurricane season. The new rules apply to EAS and NOAA Weather Radio (NWR). Two of the EAS codes correspond to a potential Storm Surge Watch/Warning. The National Weather Service (NWS) is still developing and seeking comments on a Storm Surge Watch/Warning for operational use in 2017. The new codes are:

Extreme Wind Warning (EWW): The EWW is an existing operational warning NWS uses for advance notice of sustained surface wind speeds of 115 MPH or greater during major hurricanes. All NWS Gulf and East Coast Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) issue the EWW.

Storm Surge Watch (SSA): The NWS may issue an SSA for the gulf and east coasts when life-threatening inundation is possible from rising water moving inland in the specified area, generally within 48 hours. Weather forecast offices could issue the SSA for tropical, subtropical, or post-tropical cyclones. A WFO may issue the watch even earlier, when conditions such as tropical storm-force winds might limit response time for evacuations or other action. A WFO may also issue the watch for locations that could be isolated by inundation in adjacent areas.

Storm Surge Warning (SSW): WFOs may issue an SSW for the gulf and east coasts when tropical inundation is more imminent — generally within 36 hours. NWS may issue a warning when other conditions, such as the onset of tropical storm-force winds, are expected to reduce the time available to evacuate or take other actions. Like the watch, NWS may issue the warning when an area could be isolated by inundation.

For all three new codes, NWS receivers that provide a limited, caption-like message display will likely show “UNKNOWN WARNING” or “UNKNOWN WATCH.” Receivers equipped with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) will activate with SAME alarm tones. Receivers equipped with the 1,050 Hz Warning Alarm will activate a tone. The NWS Dissemination Team will work with receiver manufacturers to add the new codes to newly manufactured NWR SAME receivers.

Beginning with the 2017 hurricane season, NWS will request an EAS activation using the EWW event code. If the NWS decides to make the SSW operational in 2017, the NWS will request EAS activation for the Storm Surge Warning. In most jurisdictions, the NWS will notrequest EAS activation for the Storm Surge Watch. WFOs are now reaching out to state and local Emergency Communications Committees, state and local emergency management agencies, and broadcasters’ associations for help in implementing the new codes. Local WFOs may issue public information statements and update WFO web pages and air public service announcements over NWR. These service changes will be further discussed at outreach events and with seasonal hurricane program briefings.

The FCC order does not require an upgrade of existing equipment already in use. The FCC “will allow EAS participants to upgrade their existing equipment to include the new event codes” on a voluntary basis; however, EAS equipment manufacturers are required to “make necessary software upgrades to EAS participants” by March 12, 2017. In most cases, broadcasters only need to obtain and implement the manufacturer-provided software update.

For more information, see the Weather-Ready Nation information fact sheet summarizing these changes, and check the list of frequently asked questions. — Thanks to the National Weather Service