What is MICON? What is its purpose, and how does it interface with the National Weather Service?
MICON is the acronym for the Michigan Inter County Organizational Network. DTX is the designator for the Detroit/Pontiac Weather Service office located in White Lake MI ( Detroit/Pontiac ). The Amateur Radio Callsign K8DTX is the offical NWS MICON Callsign from the White Lake Weather Service Office in Southeastern Michigan. There are three other MICON regional networks set up to serve the State of Michigan. They include MICON-GRR, MICON-APX, and MICON-MQT, and their callsigns are WX8GRR, WX8APX, and WX8MQT, respectively. These networks are setup to provide communications between the NWS offices in Michigan and the counties under their warning responsibility. MICON-DTX has the responsibility to provide two way communications for Bay, Midland, Saginaw, Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac, Shiawassee, Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Livingston, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Wayne, Monroe, and Lenewee counties. Each MICON district has a District Emergency Coordinator (DEC) appointed by the state Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC). The ARRL DEC for MICON-DTX is Ted Davis, N8ZSA.
The primary mission of MICON-DTX is to provide communications with and between all of the above 17 counties and the DTX WSO during a severe weather event. The network is activated during all large scale severe events, usually thunderstorm and tornado watches, as well as most warnings. There are a few occasions where you may not find a MICON net activated due to an event with very small, unpredicatable, local storms of an unorganized nature. Each county operates and is responsible for their own local Skywarn net, usually on 2 meters. They run their nets independently, but provide a liaison station to the NWS via the MICON net.
The MICON network operates under the "Key Station" concept. That is, the net control operator at the NWS only communicates with one key station from each of the counties. This is achieved by utilizing a system of linked 440 Mhz repeaters operated by the Central Michigan Emergency Network (CMEN). The frequency monitored by K8DTX is 442.350 Mhz (PL 100.0) in Fenton, MI and is linked to several other 440 machines across the 17 counties of the DTX County Warning Area. See the CMEN MICON .pdf for specifics to your area. This system was developed to allow access by outlying areas via amateur radio. It was designed for use of key stations with good antenna and power output, and it is *NOT* suited nor intended for use by spotters within any given county.
During all watch and warning situations, the primary responsibility of the network is to collect severe weather reports from any of the affected counties. The NWS uses this information, along with other reports and radar correlation, to make informed decisions when issuing severe weather warnings and statements. It is also MICON's responsibility to notify counties of potential severe weather observations or trends. These reports are issued by NWS personnel, and are not observations and commentary by MICON net control operators.
In the case of damage resulting from a severe weather event, the NWS may request that Amateur Radio Operators in, or near, the region provide damage assessment reports. These requests are coordinated by the County EC or AEC, and in all cases safety considerations for the observer is of prime importance.
The secondary mission of MICON-DTX is to provide "Four Season" weather reports and observations. These reports may include rainfall amounts, snow depths, flooding, fog and icing observations. Contact the NWS for up-coming classes on 4-Season weather reporting.
Conventional AX.25 packet is going through some changes currently. The system is located on 144.950 and can be connected to via K8DTX-3 to get the JNOS BBS. You may connect to the BBS by telneting to NWSDTX.AMPR.ORG via internet.
One method of providing weather information to and from the counties is by the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS). MICON-DTX incorporates a 24 hour APRS station operating on 144.39 Mhz. The callsign is K8DTX. This computer mapping system monitors automated and manual weather reports and displays them in real time. There are currently up to 12 automated weather stations on the network, depending on band openings. These remote weather stations are monitored during severe weather events to spot trends in wind speeds and directions, as well as temperatures and rainfall. This type of display is also very useful in displaying 4-season reports throughout the year. During severe weather activation the MICON NCS will (time permitting) place tornado and funnel reports on the network. These tornado symbols will be seen by APRS stations throughout the region. The current status of the MICON-DTX net may also be found by checking the status of K8DTX via your favorite APRS client, and on aprs.fi. A large number of the members of MICON-DTX use the tactical call of MICON-xx on APRS. You can get an overview of their activities by going here. (You may have to zoom out in order to see stations.)
Here is a brief description of the radios, antennas, and computer systems used to support voice and packet communications.
All of the radio and computer equipment is mounted in a console located near the operations area of the NWS office. This console supports the following radio and computer equipment.
Primary 440 and 2m FM voice radios are Motorola business band radios rated for 80 W output.
Packet Radio (Conventional AX.25) Icom 25H (25 watts on 144.95 Mhz.) (Oakland/Wayne packet frequency) with KPC-3 TNC to JNOS box.
Adjacent to the console, there is a slave printer that gives all of the statements that are issued.
Outside, the radios are connected to several antennas on an 80 ft. tower. The 2 meter and 440 voice antennas are part of a Comet tri-bander, mounted at the 75 ft. level. The Inter-County 4 season packet antenna is a Comet 2 meter antenna at the 80 ft. level. The APRS antenna is a short 2 meter antenna mounted on the roof of the NWS building. Each feedline is routed through Poly Phaser lighting adapters.