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. 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. 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 of these districts has a District Emergency Coordinator (DEC) appointed by the state Section Emergency Coordinator (SEC). The ARRL DEC for MICON-DTX is Ed Galipeau, WA1LRL.
The primary mission of MICON-DTX is to provide communications with any or all of the 17 counties during a severe weather event. The network is activated during all severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings/watches. Each county operates and is responsible for their own 2 meter Skywarn net. They run their nets independently, but provide a radio link to the NWS.
The MICON network operates under the "Key Station" concept. That is, the operator at the NWS only communicates with one key station from each of the counties. This is achieved by utilizing a common frequency on 440 Mhz. The current primary frequency for the network is 442.15 Mhz (PL 100.0). This is the K1DE repeater located at the General Motors Proving Ground in Milford, MI. The secondary fequency is 442.350 Mhz (PL 100.0) in Fenton, MI linked to 442.15 and 442.175 (PL 123.0) in Detroit, MI. At the present time these two repeaters will not cover the total 17 county area, so linking other repeaters in Flint & Ann Arbor to reach the outlying counties has been developed.
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.
MICON-DTX maintains a 24 hour on-line packet system that logs weather observations on a hard copy printer. Connect to K8DTX-5 on 145.76 Mhz. to log your report. This is not a mailbox. When you connect you will be connected directly to the printer. Send a file, or type your report, and issue a Control C - disconnect, to terminate your connection.
Another 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.
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.
FM Radio Tri-band Kenwood TS-742 Transceiver (45 watts on 442.15 Mhz.)
Net Control Computer 486 DX 33, VGA, running WA1LRL Net Control Software
SmartDisplay (Net Status Display) scrolling billboard
Adjacent to the console, there is a slave printer and WSR-88D monitor display from the main radar doppler console. The printer prints out all of the warnings and statements that are issued, while the display keeps the operators up to date with what the forecasters are watching.
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.