Local amateur radio operators will be scanning for storms this summer

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Ed Halliwell, president of the Seaway Valley Amateur Radio Club, tunes in to a frequency during an event last year.

CORNWALL, Ontario - The fight to keep Cornwall and area safe from wind, rain and hail this summer will have some new allies.

Local amateur radio operators will be volunteering to join the CANWARN Storm Spotter group - a collection of individuals who keep in touch with Environment Canada during major weather events to report local conditions in real-time.

The Seaway Valley Amateur Radio Club is taking a lead role locally, through its network of 26 members who operate powerful radio sets from basements and garages throughout the area.

Club president Ed Halliwell said in an interview members will be able to transmit data - including wind direction and ferocity, hail size and storm tracks - to Environment Canada during powerful storms.

"With weather getting the way it has, we're seeing more and more severe storms," he said, adding Environment Canada needs all the help it can get. "The weather radar tells them there is precipitation...but it doesn't tell them much about what kind."

And unlike powerful Doppler radar systems in the United States, Canada is still lagging when it comes tracking and predicting tornadoes.

The idea now is to give severe weather meteorologists as much real-time data as possible so that warnings can be updated for others still within the track of a particular storm.

Halliwell expects as many as a dozen of his members will sign on to take part in the program, which is also open to the general public.

He has shared details of the program with the South Stormont Yacht Club, the local power squadron and hopes members of the public also take part.

Not only will amateur radio operators be able to communicate weather data over the airwaves, but a secure web address and a confidential 800-number will be shared with program participants to provide details of particular storms.

"The people who are amateur radio operators will probably report on the radio network," said Halliwell. "But people from the general public will report in by the Internet or the unpublished 800-number."

The radio club is hosting a training seminar on May 10 at 9 a.m. at the St. Lawrence Power Development Visitor Centre to go over details of CANWARN and how to become a member of the network.

The free seminar lasts approximately three hours and is open to the public. Access to the Environment Canada reporting website and the 800-number will be given at the meeting.

For more information contact Halliwell at ed.halliwell@xplornet.com.

Organizations: Environment Canada, Seaway Valley Amatuer Radio Club, Lawrence Power Development Visitor Centre

Geographic location: Ontario

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