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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Believe it or not, 100 year old technology plays a special role during hurricane season at the National Hurricane Center in west Miami-Dade.

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They’re called amateur radio operators, ‘hams’ for shot and they communicate in ways others can’t.

“We have a group of about 30 volunteers and they come in here during hurricanes that are anywhere in the Atlantic,” said Julio Ripoll, a ham radio op who volunteers his time at the NHC.

The NHC relies on data and weather observations for their forecasts and reports. Sometimes, however, weather data can’t be transmitted either because there is no internet or the weather is really, really bad.

“Many times we basically just fill in the gaps from all the other weather data they get from satellite and air recon, but there are gaps on the surface that they may not have so we fill in those reports,” said Ripoll. “We basically take surface reports from other hams that have radio stations and relay them to the forecasters.”

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Sometimes they not only report the weather, but become part of the action.

“It happened during Katrina, which is not that long ago,” said Ripoll. “We lost the regular, conventional communications from some of those National Weather Service stations except the one in Slidell which had a ham radio operator on board. So for six hours we stayed connected with him, in tracking the storm as it landed live over them with weather reports, and then health and welfare.”

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Ripoll said the ham radio ops who volunteer at the NHC are a diverse set including doctors, architects and engineers who bring unique skill sets in addition to their communication skill.

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“We get paid nothing because we’re volunteers but we get paid in the satisfaction that what we don is important and we feel it actually does help lives in the long run,” said Ripoll.