Federally licensed radio hobbyists have activated a shortwave network along the Gulf Coast in case they are needed to cover interruptions in communications from Hurricane Harvey.
The "Hurricane Watch Net" consists of volunteer amateur operators who use their radios to relay messages about the storm's damage, any emergency calls for help from areas where regular communications are down, and to support official emergency responders in what's called "health and welfare" checks in the areas that were hit by the storm.
Volunteers who've been trained in how to assess flooding and other storm damage will offer their observations over the network in what may be an early eyewitness account of what the storm has done to a given area. The observations are compiled by operators at station WX4NHC, which is located at the National Hurricane Center, and passed along to officials keeping track of the storm's progress.
The stations, many of which are portable and can be operated off a car battery, are using two frequencies that can be heard by the monitoring public: 14.325MHz daytime, and 7.268MHz at night as signals change on the shortwave bands. Many internet-based receivers are available for those who don't have shortwave radios of their own, including the open, streaming audio websdr.org, which has a selection of nodes that will include locations picking up the signals.
The station at the Hurricane Center also provides a website hwn.org with the latest information about the storm.